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Welcome to the first day of Organized Training Activities, Broncos fans!
OK, it doesn’t have the same ring as a season’s kickoff, but in some ways, this is Denver’s kickoff to the 2015 season. For the first time since new free agents were signed and college players drafted will everyone be on the field together, preparing for the grind of the NFL season.
And even before the Broncos take the practice field, there’s news.
First and foremost, newly signed defensive lineman Antonio Smith will sit out OTAs as his child abuse investigation is on-going. Denver learned of the allegations against Smith only last Wednesday and after multiple discussions this weekend, both parties have decided it best if he is sidelined.
Fort Worth, Texas authorities received a complaint about Smith, and while there are not formal charges yet, there is an on-going probe into what happened.
Denver’s beefed up their defensive line in recent years, signing edge-rush specialist DeMarcus Ware last offseason and then selecting Shane Ray in the first round of the NFL Draft less than one month ago. Smith was supposed to be another man in the trenches on a team which will put more pressure on the quarterback than has been seen in a long time thanks to Wade Phillips’ philosophies.
Bill Walsh Minority Interns
Attending the Broncos’ first day of OTAs is Nick Ferguson, former Denver safety from 2003-07, and now a Bill Walsh Minority Intern. Ferguson played in the NFL for a decade (2000-09) for a whole host of teams and was also a safety in the CFL and NFL Europe at points, too.
The Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship’s intention is to aid young, minority coaching candidates by showing them the ropes through OTAs and training camps.
From their website:
“Designed as a vocational tool to increase the number of full-time NFL minority coaches, all 32 NFL Clubs participate in the program on an annual basis. Specific aspects of the program (including hiring, salary and coaching duties) are administered on a Club-by-Club basis. No elements of the Fellowship are mandated to the Clubs by the League office, but several “best practices” have been strongly recommended to the Club, including:
Participants are hired for the duration of training camp, including all pre-season games.
Clubs are encouraged to hire a minimum of four (4) participants”
Besides Ferguson, other Bill Walsh Minority Interns at Dove Valley today are Tim Cross, the defensive line coach of Air Force Falcons Football and Lenny Vandermade, offensive coordinator of the University of Southern California.
This is a profound program to allow minority coaching candidates the experience and guidance needed to be successful at the head coaching level one day. It goes beyond the Rooney Rule of interviewing one minority coaching candidate when hiring a new head coach. This new, proactive effort by the league to bring more african-american men into coaching roles during a time when the league’s players are overwhelmingly african-american is intelligent.