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Vic Fangio's friendship leads to Mike Shanahan's return to practice

Shanahan visits; Vic talks coaching principles
Posted at 2:29 PM, Jul 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-20 16:47:48-04

ENGLEWOOD — Vic Fangio is a magnet for coaches. He has friends in multiple sports, from Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon and Rockies boss Bud Black to Sixers coach Brett Brown. Saturday, Mike Shanahan, the greatest coach in Broncos history, returned to practice for the first time since 2008 at Fangio's invitation.

Fangio appreciates his friendships with fellow coaches, picking their brains for advice. Everything matters to Fangio. It's why he will watch a Nuggets game and remember a third quarter turnover or take in a Rockies game in San Francisco and ask about a bunt defense. Having Shanahan around represents another coaching legend with a fresh set of eyes on Fangio's team.

Why not?

"I invited him out. I wanted him to come. I was glad he was here, and it's good he's here," Fangio said of Shanahan, who is also friends with offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, who worked with his son Kyle in Atlanta and San Francisco. "Mike has a big part in the history of this franchise."

Fangio's open door has produced quite the guest list. Visitors over the last few months include Peyton and Archie Manning, former Broncos defensive boss Joe Collier, CU coach Mel Tucker, and, on Saturday, members of the Altanta Hawks coaching staff whom Fangio met through Brown.

Shanahan watched practice with purpose, checking his roster frequently after plays. He's unlikely to coach again -- he almost replaced Vance Joseph after the 2017 season -- though his legacy is cemented. He should be a Hall of Famer after leading the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl crowns. At one point, Fangio talked shop with general manager John Elway and Shanahan during drills.

"Mike's welcome to come here anytime he wants," Fangio said.

Taking ownership
Here is the CliffsNotes version of the first four days: the offensive has had some good moments, the defense has had some great days, and Fangio has been the most impressive. His fingerprints are all over his first training camp. No music blares. And, like everything, Fangio has a reason. They don't play music during games. And this expands to his coaching philosophy. He wants players to take ownership.

"Peer pressure is better than coaching pressure. If you notice here, most of the drills the coaches are off to the side. I don't want them screaming and hollering instructions to the players," Fangio explained. "In the game, they're on their own. We can't help them in the game, so don't be helping them in practice. Your leaders have to come from those 11 guys that are on the field. They've got to work through it. I like that."

Rise up
Starting left guard Dalton Risner continues to turn heads early in camp with his energy and strength. He has won his share of 1-on-1 drills. The best part of Risner's camp: he knows what he doesn't know.

"He wants to be great," right guard Ron Leary told Denver7 on Saturday. "He is coachable. He is humble. Dalton wants to learn. A lot of young guys aren’t like that."

Risner, a rookie from Wiggins, Colo., sees it as a natural step. He is surrounded by veterans who can accelerate his development.

"I am just soaking it all in," Risner said. "I am sure Ron gets tired of my questions. But he told me to ask him, and I am abusing that. I know this group of guys can make me better."

Tight end Troy Fumagalli (hip) missed practice and is considered day-to-day. He has been impressive early in camp. ... Receiver River Cracraft (oblique) will be sidelined roughly a week. ... A running back to keep an eye on: Devontae Jackson. He continues making plays, and could be this year's longshot who wins a roster spot. ... Safeties Justin Simmons and Will Parks netted interceptions in practice. ... Fangio continues mixing in players in Todd Davis' absence. Former CSU standout Josh Watson worked with the starters at inside linebacker on Saturday.