Broncos rookies getting up to speed before Manning's arrival

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Before Friday, third-round draft pick Jeff Heuerman had never really heard a play called from inside a huddle. Or, for that matter, even been inside a huddle.

Not the tight end's fault. At Ohio State, his team simply ran an uptempo system.

There's plenty to digest as Heuerman and the rest of the Denver Broncos rookies try to get up to speed in a minicamp before Peyton Manning & Co. arrive on the field. The biggest thing Heuerman has already discovered is quite simple: ''I go opposite the quarterback'' out of the huddle, he said, laughing.

A good thing to know.

''This is a little different than what we ran in college,'' said Heuerman, who made a one-handed grab in a workout held indoors because of rain. ''But it's nice to get out there and run around and compete a little bit.''

That was more than first-round pick Shane Ray got to do Friday. Still hampered by a hyperextended right big toe, the outside linebacker out of Missouri was more observer than pass rusher.

''I feel like I'm getting better every week,'' Ray said. ''When they (medical staff) think it's the right time to get back to doing what I do, they'll bring me out.''

Ray was wearing No. 56 - the number he donned at Missouri - after persuading fellow linebacker Shaquil Barrett to switch with him. It came at a price, though.

''Not a big deal,'' Ray said with a casual shrug.

It's been a roller-coaster past few days for Ray, who slid down the board after receiving a citation for possession of pot three days before the draft. The No. 23 overall pick reiterated Friday it was a mistake he wouldn't make again.

And if you have a joke about the irony of him landing in a place where marijuana is legal, save it, because Ray's heard them all.

''It really doesn't faze me,'' Ray said. ''It would be different if I had a serious history of issues with marijuana and stuff like that, but I don't.

''I focus on moving past that and getting ready to play football.''

Offensive lineman Ty Sambrailo said things became ''pretty real'' when he was handed a helmet with a Broncos logo on it. And even more so knowing he will have to protect Manning.

The second-rounder out of Colorado State has plenty of studying to do before then.

''Kind of learning the new language will take a little bit, but once that kicks in, it'll be pretty easy,'' Sambrailo said.

Given that he played up the road in Fort Collins, Colorado, Sambrailo is the go-to guy on elevation - like how to cope with it.

''Told them it will take a few days,'' Sambrailo said. ''Have to suck it up and know it will get better.''

Center Max Garcia isn't sure which is worse: the humidity at the University of Florida or the thin air in Denver.

''I could definitely feel the elevation,'' Garcia said. ''I'm sure I'll get used to it.''

Ray is obviously a cinch to make this squad. But there's some real intrigue in regard to the college free agents on the team, since the Broncos have had one make the active roster out of training camp for 11 straight years.

Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris Jr. remains one of the bigger success stories. He went undrafted out of Kansas, got a $2,000 bonus in 2011 and played his way into a lucrative five-year contract extension worth $42.5 million last December.

The next one could possibly be receiver Jordan Taylor of Rice - the Broncos are a little thin at the position - or maybe tackle Connor Rains of Wyoming.

Broncos coach Gary Kubiak showed the younger players a video of Terrell Davis and how the Denver running back covered a kick early in his standout career.

''The story of how he got noticed as a player,'' Kubiak explained. ''You are just trying to prove who you are and how you can take the thing from the meeting room to the practice field.''

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AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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