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Saints legend Drew Brees visits Broncos practice

Payton's team set for productive work vs. Rams over next two days
Drew Brees Broncos practice.jpg
Posted at 5:19 PM, Aug 22, 2023

ENGLEWOOD – The sight widened eyes. Roughly 20 yards from the media holding area three future Hall of Famers talked shop.

Coach Sean Payton, former pass-rushing demon Jared Allen, a volunteer assistant, and Saints legend Drew Brees were making small talk. Usually, when a record-breaking quarterback from New Orleans drops by the fieldhouse it is Peyton Manning saying hello or running a tackle football practice for his son Marshall.

Tuesday brought Brees, who looked comfortable walking around talking to players, vice president of health of performance guru Beau Lowery and CEO Greg Penner and his wife Carrie Walton Penner.

“He was in for a day. His brother lives in Centennial. He phoned us yesterday and said he was coming in to see his brother and wanted to know our schedule. So, he came in. It was great to see him. He knows a lot of people here — coaches and players,” said Payton, whose Canton resume mirrors his time with Brees from 2006 to 2020.

“I think for him it was really just getting around and seeing some familiar faces. He had a chance to meet Greg and Carrie and that was nice. We had a lot of people. We had our alumni in today, and that was really good. They were able to watch practice and spend some time with our players afterward. The lifeblood of your program are the people—the present players, the former players, and those that came before us and really built this foundation and built the tradition that we’ve been able to really enjoy.”

When the Broncos hired Payton, he joked that Brees would serve as a coach for the San Diego Bureau. Brees and Wilson live near each other in California, and that relationship is partly how Wilson came to know Payton and wanted him as his coach. The Broncos would love for Payton to find synchronicity with Wilson the way he did with Brees. They were one of the greatest coach-QB combinations in league history, winning 142 regular season games and a Super Bowl crown together.

Getting healthy

While the Broncos lost receiver Jalen Virgil for the season with knee surgery, they received plenty of good news on the injury front on Tuesday. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey (knee), safety Justin Simmons (groin), tight end Chris Manhertz and receiver Brandon Johnson (ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis. McGlinchey and Manhertz appeared full participants and could receive work in Wednesday and Thursday’s joint practices with the Rams. It’s unclear whether Johnson and Simmons will be cleared for that, and there’s frankly no reason to push Simmons, one of the team’s best players. Johnson is competing for a roster spot. He was running as the No. 3 receiver before he sprained his ankle two weeks ago.

Starting nickelback K’Waun Williams (ankle) and reserve safety and special teams core player P.J. Locke (ankle/foot) attended practice and were in uniform but did not participate.

Broncos v. Rams: Don’t drop the gloves

Where is the line between intensity and fighting? The Broncos and Rams need to find that this week. Around the league, ugly brawls have ended joint practices. Payton said he did not anticipate an issue with brawls given his past with teams like the Patriots and Chargers.

“I think (Rams coach) Sean (McVay) will do a great job with his team. My experience -- we’ve had a lot of good work take place without any fighting, so I don’t expect that to be an issue at all,” Payton said.

Left guard Quinn Meinerz said it’s up to the Broncos offensive line to set the tone.

“We are not looking to start fights, but we are looking to have physical practices where we can get better at our craft,” Meinerz said. “At the end of the day, things run through us and if things happen, we will make sure it gets cleaned up quickly.”

Payton did not reveal if he will play his starters on Saturday night in the lone exhibition home game, but admitted they would not go more than one series if they do participate.


Running back Jaleel McLaughlin, who has three touchdowns in two games, continues his inspiring sprint toward the roster. His burst, speed and versatility make it likely the undrafted star from Youngstown State is a keeper. But he takes nothing for granted and appreciates the advice from Javonte Williams and Samaje Perine. “Those guys see how I could have capitalized more. They tell me that this can be better or that can be better. And I really appreciate that and how much love they have for me. I am going to just keep working hard.” …

I asked Sean Payton about the snaps for Randy Gregory (22) and Frank Clark (27) on Saturday. Gregory said it was by design, but Clark didn’t seem thrilled to be in the game in the fourth quarter. “Part of that is just the sum total and making sure we get enough reps. You don’t have the luxury to keep everyone identical. Some guys didn’t get as much the week before, so we tried to look at the pitch counts individually,” Payton explained. …

Payton said he saw significant improvement from inside linebacker Drew Sanders in week 2. Sanders sets up as an X-factor of the defense.