Denver Broncos' head coach Vic Fangio must be wondering what his team did to incur the ire of the Football Gods. A glut of soft tissue injuries has led the Broncos to become rapidly thin at key positions, including at wide receiver and linebacker.
Fangio’s headaches only continued with the news that promising rookie linebacker Justin Strnad required season-ending wrist surgery. Following Monday's practice, the embattled Fangio confessed that the unfortunate run of soft tissue injuries was unanticipated, despite the absence of on-field OTAs.
“No, because already this year practicing less than we practiced a year ago this time, we have more [soft tissue injuries] than we had the entire season last year,” Fangio revealed. “So no, I was not expecting that.”
True to the coach's forthright style and personality, Fangio was not holding back or turning the focus from his own planning. He confessed that some oversights in preparation had only added to the list of the Broncos' walking wounded.
“I think there was some flaws in the way we set up the acclimation period along with the other stuff,” Fangio admitted. “It doesn’t do anybody any good to whine about it now.”
Fangio, like all NFL teams, are in uncharted waters. The closest facsimile of what the Broncos are dealing with now was the 2011 lockout season but it's not an apples-to-apples comparison for multiple reasons.
That being said, the bigger and more immediate task at hand is to launch into some badly needed damage control when it comes to the roster. Monday’s practice was held without pads for 100 mins with the main focus being on mental preparation rather than going with full-speed physical football.
“We just have to adjust and improvise and react to it, which we did,” Fangio said. “Today we altered practice. That wasn’t the planned practice that we had today. That was a practice we were going to do later in the week. We did it today instead. We’ll see how we come out of that.”
Fangio upped the ante in Tuesday's practice, which was a very spirited affair that saw Drew Lock and the Broncos' offense struggle initially but finish strong in red-zone period.
Changing training camp schedules on the fly has very much been the order of the day throughout the entire NFL as teams adjust to a version of the ‘new normal.’ Fangio will be hoping that taking early preventative action ensures his players remain healthy and available when the intensity levels get cranked back up in September.
“I did know we were going to have to do some adjusting as we go," Fangio said.
Fighting smaller fires comes with the territory of being a head coach amid the current restrictions and precautions due to the pandemic, but it’s only adding to the pressure on Fangio and his coaching staff. If the Broncos can overcome adversity now, the hope is that the team can follow suit when the games count and the bullets fly.
The Broncos will get Wednesday off before reconvening for the 11th practice of training camp on Thursday.