He was the Broncos’ first-round pick, selected 23rd overall. He has yet to play in an NFL game and, because of a toe injury he suffered in his final game at the University of Missouri, has yet to participate in his first full NFL practice.
Yet, when Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware interact with the Broncos’ prized rookie now and for the remainder of Ray’s first year, Denver's two Pro Bowl rushers say they will refuse to acknowledge Ray’s first-year status.
“I told him the rookie stuff is out the window -- I’m not going to treat you like a rookie,’’ Miller said. “DeMarcus? He’s not going to treat you like a rookie. Everybody else is different, but me and DeMarcus, we’re going to treat him like we’ve been playing with him for a couple years now. He’s going to do a lot of great stuff for us.’’
Ray, who suffered what he has called a "variation of turf toe" in Missouri's bowl game, took part Monday in his first practice since the draft. He did individual drills with the linebackers, though the Broncos held him out of team drills.
The plan, coach Gary Kubiak said earlier this week, is to have Ray take part on a limited basis in this week’s OTA practices and perhaps, if all goes well, pick up the pace and participate in some of the team drills in next week’s minicamp. Both Kubiak and Ray have said they believe Ray will be at full speed by training camp.
Miller, however, said the Broncos have already seen enough to know Ray’s potential. Ware said he knew of Ray’s elite first-step quickness in the pass rush, and even with the injury Ray has shown some of that explosiveness.
“You could see it, even though he wasn’t doing everything,’’ Ware said. “…You could see that part of his game.’’
Miller said Tuesday he spent some time with Ray in Miami before the draft, as both players were using separate trainers to get ready for the season.
But at the time, Miller believed Ray was too highly rated to be available for the Broncos at the bottom of the first round. The Broncos entered the draft with the 28th pick but traded up five spots when Ray suffered a draft-day slide because of a citation for marijuana possession just before the draft.
“I never thought he was going to come here,’’ Miller said. “…Shane’s going to come in and he’s going to help us right away. … When I was talking to him about the locker room, how to respond to the vets and all that stuff, what the vets do, how we do stuff here at the Broncos, not knowing he was going to come here … he’s got a great vision of how things are supposed to go here.’’
Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said he’s already devising ways to use Miller, Ware and Ray on the field at the same time.
“[I’m] looking forward to playing and being successful. … I’m feeling great about this year like any other year,’’ Miller said. “You can see it in practice with all of the interceptions and tipped balls that we get."
“We want to get that tornado going,’’ Ware said. “Where the offense doesn’t know where we’re coming from, where they have to make choices about where they are sliding the protection, and they have a hard time getting everybody.’’