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Sunday, August 8, 2010
Updated: August 12, 10:25 AM ET
Champ Bailey backs Josh McDaniels

By Chris Mortensen
ESPN.com

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Champ Bailey has been around the Denver Broncos long enough to see stunning changes. Mike Shanahan, fired. Jay Cutler, traded. Brandon Marshall, traded.

Of those three events in the past two years, Bailey cites Shanahan's firing as the most shocking to him "because he had been here 14 years and won two Super Bowls. The other two guys [Cutler and Marshall] really hadn't done anything here."

It could be said that second-year coach Josh McDaniels hasn't done anything either, except go .500 in his first season, make headlines by kicking Cutler and Marshall out of town and stun some by drafting Tim Tebow in the first round.

It might surprise you that despite the fact that Denver blew a 6-0 start in 2009 and suffered a slew of injuries in camp, the 34-year-old McDaniels has the two strongest believers a coach could want in the 32-year-old Bailey and 36-year-old safety Brian Dawkins.

"If we don't win with this guy … I mean, he's doing everything possible to get us ready," Bailey said. "I give this coach credit. I've learned so much from this guy and I'm in my 13th year. We know we are going to be a prepared football team the way he coaches us to be smart, tough, physical, and [McDaniels] knows everything about different game situations."

Dawkins loves that McDaniels has not allowed the distractions of trades and injuries to become an excuse in 2010. The Broncos have suffered a rash of injuries, including losing standout defensive end Elvis Dumervil (17 sacks in 2009) to a torn pectoral muscle.

"Other people talk about this rebuilding stuff, but Coach is talking about winning right now, and he is very, very passionate about winning right now," Dawkins said. "He is consistent with his message. It's team first, period. He is consistent with his preparation and what he expects of us. What you do in the meeting rooms, what you do in practice, what you do on and off the field will define what you're going to mean to this football team."

McDaniels rejected the moniker of "Bad News Broncos."

"It's not fitting, but I think it fits something we stress about adversity," McDaniels said. "OK, we have some adversity right in front of us. There's always going to be a time in your life or your surroundings that doesn't go the way you'd want. But just like in 2008 with the Patriots, Tom [Brady] went down 11 plays into the season, you have a choice. You can say, 'Well, it's over.' Or you can say, 'It's different, but we've got to win anyway.'

"Yeah, we've got eight players down [with injuries] right now, but we're getting five back today and with the exception of Elvis, we hope we'll have the rest back by the time we open the season. What we have to do better than last year is handle the highs and lows better, and this adversity we're experiencing right now is a way to build that culture of change."

More observations on the Broncos:

• Make no mistake, Kyle Orton is the starting quarterback and there has been nothing to suggest he won't remain the starter. "Kyle now knows this offense like the back of his hand," McDaniels said.

• Tebow has made a strong early impression on veteran players, including Dawkins. "Tim's a great guy. Very humble … very hard worker, always asking me questions that he's hoping can make him a better player."

• Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos' first No. 1 pick, has created a huge buzz with his 6-foot-3, 229-pound frame. He did twist his foot making a great catch in Saturday's scrimmage -- the same one that kept him out of the scouting combine -- but the team insists the injury is minor.

• McDaniels and others had high praise for receiver Eddie Royal, who had a disappointing second season. He hooked up with Orton for some big plays during Tuesday's practice.

• Last year's first-round pick, 6-3, 274-pound linebacker Robert Ayers, has played well in camp.

• The Broncos are optimistic Pro Bowl offensive tackle Ryan Clady (knee) will be ready for the season opener. He suffered the injury in an offseason basketball game.

• The Broncos expect running back Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) back for the opener. They recently signed LenDale White, who stunned Denver with how sharp he looked in practice last week.

ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen will file reports from all the training camps and send updates on the road via Twitter (@mortreport).