Broncos see Evan Mathis as right guy at right time and ready for season opener

"He brings a lot of experience to a group that doesn't have a lot of experience," Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said of Evan Mathis. AP Photo/David Zalubowski

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Evan Mathis will start in the Denver Broncos offensive line, just not in Saturday's preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers.

"That wouldn't be very smart on my part," Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. "I'm not going to do that. He might suit up, but he's not going to play. I can tell you that."

But Mathis will play -- a lot -- when the Broncos open the regular season Sept. 13 against the Baltimore Ravens and beyond, at least that's the plan. The 11th-year veteran signed his one-year contract with the Broncos on Wednesday morning and was on the field when the Broncos went through a joint practice with the San Francisco 49ers.

Mathis went through team stretching to open practice and then went to the Broncos weight room as the team's strength and conditioning staff gauged his conditioning level. The Broncos plan, moving forward, is to ease Mathis into the team's practice schedule -- he is not expected to play in either of the two remaining preseason games -- and be ready for the season opener.

"What we're doing is we basically put him with (strength and conditioning coach) Luke (Richesson) today to try to find out exactly where his conditioning level is," Kubiak said. "Luke said he looked good. I think tomorrow we'll probably do a little bit of individual work. We'll work him through it. We're not going to just throw him out here right now. We're going to have a plan every day."

"I have been at a facility to keep in shape. I own my own training facility in Arizona," Mathis said. "Since the first week of January, I've been going five days a week there and putting a lot of good work in. I'm excited about where my conditioning and where my strength is right now."

Mathis knows why he's in Colorado as well. He needed a team that believes it will be in the Super Bowl conversation and the Broncos needed a player to settle down what will be an offensive line with a youthful flavor. Already, the Broncos consider Mathis their starting left guard, displacing rookie Max Garcia.

Garcia has spent most of training camp with the starters. While the Broncos believe Garcia has the look of a future starter, they will now give him a little more time.

"We have a lot of confidence in Max," Kubiak said. "Max has done a great job. I talked to Max first thing (Tuesday) and explained to him that it wasn't about anything he's done. It's about us having a chance to get a great player and improve our football team. The key is how good are we? How strong are we? How deep are we going to be as a football team? We just obviously got stronger on the front."

Mathis now finds him between a rookie at left tackle in Ty Sambrailo and Matt Paradis at center. Paradis spent his rookie year in 2014 on the Broncos' practice squad.

"The Broncos were a team that throughout this process, they weren't really involved and kind of showed up late and showed some interest -- a very enticing opportunity," Mathis said. "Really made me think hard about it. There were just so many things about this team, the organization, the coaching staff that I just couldn't avoid. I couldn't turn it down. I had to be there. … They let me know right away, explained the situation -- a young offensive line that could do well with some more veteran leadership and experience."

Mathis has plenty of experience in a similar offense as the Broncos will run, including his time with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Broncos believed the two-time Pro Bowl selection would be a quick scheme fit.

"Obviously, he's a great player and great person, too," Kubiak said. "He brings a lot of experience to a group that doesn't have a lot of experience. A 10-, 11-year player walks in the room, obviously all the young guys know him. It's a great addition to our football team, really looking forward to having him. Like I said, we just have to him to that point the right way."

"I think it helps a lot. I have a lot of experience in the zone-blocking scheme," Mathis said. "I think it fits me very well … but mainly just the opportunity to play for a contender of an organization and block for a guy like Peyton Manning."