ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The rookie class took the field for the Denver Broncos for the first time Friday. The Broncos had 36 players in attendance -- North Dakota wide receiver Greg Hardin is not expected to arrive until Sunday -- a total that included the team’s six-player draft class.
"At this stage you love getting back on the grass, no doubt about that," said Broncos head coach John Fox. "You spend a lot of time evaluating these guys, whether it’s draft picks or college free agents ... we’re getting to know them and they’re getting to know us."
Wide receiver Cody Latimer, who was the Broncos’ second-round pick, had surgery to repair a fractured fifth metatarsal in his foot this past January and is still recovering. Latimer, who did not run at the scouting combine and didn’t do a complete pro day workout in the weeks leading up to the draft, will be limited by the Broncos in the coming weeks.
He is expected to earn significant playing time in his rookie season and is expected to be full speed, or close to it, by the time training camp rolls around.
"All in all we’re going to be smart with his foot and he’s doing just fine," Fox said. "We were familiar with it and he’ll be more involved by Monday."
The Broncos can also have players who were on their practice squad last season in attendance. Guard Ben Garland, safety John Boyett, tackle Vinston Painter, tackle Paul Cornick and defensive end John Youboty are in that group.
"I talked to them (Thursday) night," Fox said. "This isn’t punishment. This is a great opportunity. We’ve got a smaller group; we’ve got less people to get the reps in this environment. It’s a great opportunity for those guys. It’s one thing to listen to it in the meeting room and watch it on tape; it’s another to be out here and actually doing it. So they’re all welcoming the opportunity."
Garland is an Air Force graduate who served two years active duty before returning to the Broncos in 2012 and has spent the past two seasons on the Broncos’ practice squad. He continues to draw raves for his approach and his progress since last season's switch from defensive tackle to guard, and was seated front and center when the coaches met with the rookies as a group this week.
Painter was in the Broncos’ 2013 draft class and was signed to the active roster Jan. 14 after the San Francisco 49ers had expressed interest in signing him off the Broncos’ practice squad.