They especially waited a long time to see Thomas at his defense-wrecking best, and all involved say they finally saw that Pro Bowl receiver in practice this past week.
“I thought he’s had a really good week,’’ quarterback Peyton Manning said. “He and I talked. There’s being in shape and there’s being in football shape. I know he continued to work out during his time away, but unless you’re out here practicing and doing drills and going through the course of a practice … it’s hard to be in football shape. It’s taken him some time, but he’s really kind of turned it on this past week.’’
But the wait was a result of the attempts by the Broncos and Thomas’ representatives to work through the numbers that will appear on Thomas’ checks in the coming seasons as he signed a five-year, $70 million deal just before training camp opened.
After skipping the team's offseason program, the Broncos wanted to make sure Thomas' conditioning was just right and got him comfortable in the new offensive scheme. The Broncos sent Thomas practice video during the offseason program and he had access to the team’s playbook, but the receiver admitted he needed the time on the field.
“I learn better by doing it,’’ Thomas said. “So, having all that helped some, but I needed to be out here running routes.’’
Thomas, like Manning, was held out of the preseason opener last week, but with Manning set to play between a quarter and a half of the preseason game in Houston Saturday night, Thomas also is slated for his first game action.
Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said he could see Thomas rounding into form this past week as the Broncos were deciding how to divvy up the playing time against the Texans.
“The last three days, I would say, I see a different guy,’’ Kubiak said. “I know he was working his way back into shape. Right now, he can run all day. You see the plays that he's making. He's getting confident in what we do, lining up and the things that are different for him.’’
“He’s caught a lot of balls and finishing after the catch,’’ Manning said. “To me, he looks like D.T. [I’m] looking forward to getting out there with him on Saturday night.’’