John Elway: Hard to dial down rookie minicamps, where 2 players were lost for season

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DENVER — John Elway says the Denver Broncos won't dial down the intensity of rookie minicamps after third-round pick Jeff Heuerman blew out a knee last weekend.

"When you're a rookie, you get excited about it," Elway said Tuesday. "I remember my first minicamp. We were running around like chickens with our heads cut off, too. So, it's always hard to pull the reins back."

Joining draft picks at rookie minicamps are undrafted college free agents and other players on tryouts. They're going full speed hoping to impress coaches and earn a roster spot.

Heuerman's season-ending injury came 24 hours after Jaguars first-rounder Dante Fowler Jr. was lost for the season with a torn left ACL. The former Florida defensive end was the No. 3 overall pick.

Both were freak injuries — Fowler was hardly touched in a blocking drill and Heuerman was hurt making a simple cut while running downfield on special teams.

"Very tough. I wish that was me," coach Gary Kubiak said. "It's such an unfortunate situation to just be running down the field and that happen. We're going to miss him. He was going to be a big part of what we're doing. But he's still going to be a big part of what we're doing."

Kubiak said Heuerman will still attend meetings and "help us coach the tight ends, and he'll have a great career here. So, unfortunate situation, but you've got to get stronger through adversity. I'm sure we'll have more. That's part of this game, so we'll work through it."

Freak injuries are unavoidable, Elway said.

"It's something you really can't control. You know, we try to do everything we can to control it, but ultimately we can't," he said.

Elway and Kubiak spoke with reporters after participating in John Lynch's annual scholarship luncheon at Sports Authority Field.

Lynch said that while there might not be anything the teams can tweak to avoid these injuries, what happened to Fowler and Heuerman will have an impact on rookie minicamps nevertheless.

"I would like to believe that it's more an anomaly than anything else," Lynch said. "I do know this: you're not going to see many rookies doing this before their contract's signed anymore. I think anytime something like this happens there's not a knee-jerk reaction but there's a reaction and agents are going to be saying, 'You cannot go in these camps.'"

Lynch said he thinks players might simply be overworking themselves leading up to the draft, going from a full college season to working out relentlessly to get ready for their pro days, team visits and the NFL combine.

"They never get a break," Lynch said. "And so these kids have been going for a long, long time. It's curious to me that most of these happen — I mean, a little contact on Fowler's but not much and sometimes I think they're just worn out. And maybe break them in a little easier. But I think that's the only lesson.

"Some people say there should be nothing until training camp (but) you've got to get on the field."

Elway and Lynch also addressed Commissioner Roger Goodell's stiff punishment of the New England Patriots this week. Tom Brady was suspended for the first four games and the team was fined $1 million and stripped of two draft picks for deflating footballs in the AFC championship game.

At first, the Broncos chief executive said the discipline didn't matter to him because "I knew that Tom Brady was going to be playing in Week 12" in Denver. "So, other than that, I wasn't too concerned about it."

Asked if the league's heavy hammer ultimately was good for the game, Elway said, "I think the integrity of the game is No. 1. ... So, I support the commissioner 100 percent."

Lynch said the matter pained him because he's tight with Brady, coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft.

Lynch said Brady's legacy "will be a little bit tarnished and I think (for) many people it will just be a topic of conversation. I think everyone knows Tom Brady is one heck of a player. As far as I know, in the Super Bowl they were airtight — pardon the pun — in terms of watching the footballs and he threw the ball all right."


AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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