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Bradley Roby reaps benefits of tough love

9/8/2014

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When the Denver Broncos opened training camp and they went about their football business each day, they had plans for rookie cornerback Bradley Roby.

And initially those plans were what offensive coordinator Adam Gase called "picking on him a bit … a welcome-to-the-NFL type deal," if that's what folks can call pointing a Hall of Fame quarterback in the league's only 600-point offense with the likes of Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Emmanuel Sanders at wide receiver toward a first-year cornerback over and over again.

But it, and Roby's ability to battle through the rough spots, is why a little over a month later the Broncos took their first-round pick and slapped him on six-time Pro Bowl selection Reggie Wayne plenty Sunday night, including often in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.

"Hey, he's covering Demaryius Thomas, he's covering Wes Welker in practice, he's covering Emmanuel Sanders in practice, so why not?" safety Rahim Moore said. "...We're keeping eyes on him. At the end of the day he's here for a reason, he wasn't a first rounder just for the heck of it. I'm proud of (him)."

"I've seen (Colts quarterback Andrew Luck) on tape," Roby said. "Last year against Kansas City, he came back from down a lot and won a playoff game. You never count guys like that out. You've just got to keep going, keep fighting."

And it was Roby who knocked away Luck's fourth-down throw toward Wayne with 1 minute, 57 seconds to play Sunday night. The play, one of many where Roby found himself solo against a receiver with eight 1,000-yard seasons in his career, finally allowed the Broncos to stop the Colts in a quarter where Indianapolis had taken ownership of momentum.

On the night Roby won some, he lost some and he had one illegal contact penalty. But the Broncos saw what they hoped for when they selected him, despite some scouts' concerns around the league about Roby's maturity, when the No. 31 pick rolled around last May.

The Broncos had done their homework, believed Roby had simply been coddled some because of his talent and needed some no-nonsense, tough love to have impact in a defense that needs, and wants, him to play as a rookie. That came in the form of defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio telling him to "earn your way" on Roby's first day and his tour under the Peyton Manning microscope early on in camp.

"First of all, he's very talented -- that's why he was picked where he was," said Broncos coach John Fox following Sunday's win. "We felt really good about his talent, but there is so much more to be a professional athlete than just talent. So what has impressed me most with him ... it's how he has gone about and improved."

"I could tell a couple times he was a little bit nervous," Moore said. "I tried to give him a couple calls and he was talking to somebody else and I was literally talking to him myself right then, but you know what? He persevered, he made plays (Sunday) ... after a while he was just confident, his swag was up."

Only linebacker Brandon Marshall, with nine tackles, finished with more than Roby's seven in the win. In the end, Roby played 63 of the defense's 74 snaps. Roby also knocked down three passes, including the fourth-down play against Wayne which tied Aqib Talib for the team lead.

"Wins … that's all that matters -- just get the Ws," Roby said. "...I want to be part of wins, be somebody who helped us get some wins."