Atwater gets highest Broncos honor

Updated: August 1, 2005, 5:38 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Hard-hitting safety Steve Atwater was voted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame on Monday.

Atwater, a three-time Associated Press All-Pro, played for the Broncos from 1989-98 and helped the Broncos to their two Super Bowl titles. This was his first year of eligibility and he was voted in unanimously by owner Pat Bowlen and the Ring of Fame board.

"It was a short discussion," Bowlen said.

A first-round draft pick in 1989, Atwater established his reputation as a hard hitter in his second year, when he crushed Chiefs running back Christian Okoye during a Monday night game. He wore a microphone for an NFL Films production that night, and the play, complete with sound, is shown whenever a feature on the NFL's hardest hits comes up.

"I've probably seen that hit 100 times," Atwater said. "My kids love watching it, and they put it in (the VCR) a couple times a year, so I get to see it quite a bit."

Atwater now works for a private investment company in Atlanta.

When he was with the Broncos, he started all 155 games he played. He made seven straight Pro Bowls from 1990-96 and finished his career with 24 interceptions, 1,301 tackles, five sacks, 12 forced fumbles and nine fumble recoveries.

He will be inducted into the Ring of Fame on Oct. 9, the day the Broncos play Washington. He will become the first person inducted since offensive lineman Gary Zimmerman in 2003.

"As I look back over my 22 years, he was certainly one of the top players to ever play for any of the teams I've been involved with," Bowlen said. "I obviously will love to see the day that he will be elected into the Hall of Fame because I think he is very deserving."<


^D-DAY:@ The Broncos closed their morning practice with 11-on-11 drills that were thoroughly dominated by the defense.

How thoroughly?

Of the first seven plays, four resulted in turnovers, another resulted in a botched pitch for a 12-yard loss and the other two gained a total of nine yards.

The defensive highlights included Champ Bailey's interception off Danny Kanell for a touchdown; a tip and interception by linebacker Jashon Sykes off Jake Plummer; a fumble recovery by Dorsett Davis after a botched snap; and an interception by Al Wilson after Lenny Walls tipped Kanell's pass.

Davis' fumble recovery capped a stretch of three turnovers on three straight plays and the defense celebrated by coming off the sideline en masse and singing "We Ready," a tune by rap singer Bubba Sparxxx.

Not surprisingly, coach Mike Shanahan spun the events of the final drill as a not-so-bad thing.

"The defense really stepped up," he said. "It was probably one of the worst practices from a defensive stand point to that time. It was nice to see the defense step up like that and rally."

Denver is well aware of the emphasis on turnovers after a 2004 season in which the defense created only 20, fourth-lowest in the league.

"If you have a pick or a fumble right in front of you, you've got to" make the play, Bailey said.

Said receiver Rod Smith: "That's going to be one of the top three defenses in the league. Going against them is going to help us in the long run."<


^BRONCO BRIEFS:@ WR Darius Watts had a pair of nice catches in the morning practice. Watts had trouble hanging onto the ball last year, his rookie season. ... Among those present at Broncos headquarters Monday were former defensive coordinator Joe Collier and former general manager John Beake, both of whom are on the board that selected Atwater to the Ring of Fame. ... WR Todd Devoe, who made a nice juggling catch Sunday, had a few more nice plays Monday, including a good catch over second-round draft pick CB Darrent Williams. ... Jake Plummer had no fewer than three passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. It was a problem he dealt with last year. Shanahan said it's a product of good defensive line play, but also said the quarterback has to do a better job finding open passing zones.<


SHANNY SAYS:@ "He's hurting. A lot of guys are hurting out there and they've just got to fight through it." --Shanahan on TE Jeb Putzier, who got dinged up during practice but stayed on the field.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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