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Honeymoon's over: Denver rookies told to be seen, not heard

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There are times when Vance Joseph is plain old school.

And as he watched the Denver Broncos' rookie class move from their private orientation, designed for first-year players, into full team work this week, Joseph had a simple message for his newest players.

He has said the transition into the NFL is really an open-and-shut affair. As in open your ears and close your mouth.

"I told our guys, 'Hey, just be yourself. Find a guy who can be an example for you and fall in line,'" Joseph said. "We have great leadership ... Find your way. Just keep your mouth closed and work."

Welcome to the league. The honeymoon was about two weeks.

That's the time it took for the Broncos rookies to go from coveted draft picks -- the guys the Broncos "just couldn’t believe" were there when their turn to pick rolled around -- into the tough-love zone.

Asked if he's nice to rookies, defensive end Derek Wolfe quickly said: "No." And after a short pause ... "no."

"You know, me, I just call them by number until they make the team," nose tackle Domata Peko said. "... I also like to show them love, and when they're down I try to take them under my wing and just show them the ropes ... but carrying pads and stuff like that, I'm all about that."

Though each of the Broncos' high-profile rookies talked about the excitement -- left tackle Garett Bolles, the team's first-round pick, in particular -- of seeing their new helmet for the first time, this week was their first look with the team's veteran players around.

"I’m just focused on doing everything I can do to be the best player I can be and contribute as much as I can," rookie running back De'Angelo Henderson said. "If it’s running to go get the ball for somebody, that's what I’m going to do. I’m just excited to be here."

The Broncos have plans for the rookie class, which joined the team's other players for Phase 2 of the offseason program -- it includes on-field work with position coaches. OTA workouts begin next week, which allow for offense against defense drills.

The Broncos believe the September depth chart will include plenty of rookies, including Bolles, who was selected with the expectation he could start at left tackle. Receiver Carlos Henderson could move into the mix on offense and figures to get the first look as a kickoff returner.

Tight end Jake Butt, who is still recovering from a knee injury suffered in the Orange Bowl in January, is also a player the Broncos considered a steal in the fifth round and see as a potential starter when healthy. DeMarcus Walker is expected to be in the defensive line rotation, Isaiah McKenzie will be first in line as the punt returner and probably see some spot duty on offense, and the Broncos believe De'Angelo Henderson could earn some carries in a suddenly crowded backfield.

But that's an ideal scenario in the sunshine-and-rainbow world of the offseason. The Broncos’ rookies seem to know there are some growing pains ahead.

"I’m just out here trying to do the best I can," Bolles said after a short on-field workout Saturday "... We’re all trying to find our way."