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Broncos Coach Nathaniel Hackett Not Sweating OTA Absences: 'This Is All Voluntary'

A number of veterans were MIA for Monday's practice.

Monday marked the launch of Phase 3 of the Denver Broncos' offseason program — and with it, the on-field incorporation of veterans and rookies for the first time in 2022.

But because this phase remains voluntary, there were several notable players missing in action at the UC Health Training Center. Some, such as outside linebacker Randy Gregory, who underwent March shoulder surgery, couldn't practice for medical reasons. Others, like safety Kareem Jackson, who was attending his daughter's graduation, had understandable family obligations.

All of whom were excused by head coach Nathaniel Hackett.

“This is all voluntary," Hackett emphasized after Monday's session. "It’s one of those things and the great thing is that a lot of those guys communicated and talk with me. That’s all I can ask. Whoever is out here, we’re going to coach them and have some fun. Those guys reached out to me, and it is voluntary.”

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Curiously (or not), the list of the excused included running back Melvin Gordon. It's unclear if Gordon couldn't show up or merely didn't want to. The latter has been his M.O. since joining Denver in 2020, and it's never affected his regular-season play: 1,904 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns across that span.

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Still, Gordon languished for months in free agency before eventually returning to the Broncos on an incentive-laden, one-year contract. One would think he'd jump at the chance — his wish — to practice alongside former college teammate Russell Wilson. Alas, while Wilson was leading, Gordon was tweeting.

The Broncos will conduct a series of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) leading up to their mandatory three-day minicamp from June 13-15, during which attendance should improve. Must improve. Because it's become a talking point.

“As a leader, I’m really big on protecting your space and doing what’s right for you. I’ll never question that. This is voluntary, I’m not going to question other things that are going on," safety Justin Simmons said Monday. "For the guys that are here and that are putting in the work and are around, I think that it is important. Am I going to say that next year if it’s the same system and things like that? Maybe not. You probably have a better grasp of the system. But a new defensive system, new offensive system, new teammates, and a new culture. I think that it’s important to be around and to be present. Like I said, is that the case for every single person? No. Maybe there’s times you need to take a week off or whatever else and handle personal matters. You never know what’s going on in someone’s life. With that being said, I do think that it is important to be here. There’s a lot of new things going on and we haven’t won in a while, so [we’re] looking forward to winning and that obviously starts now.”

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