NFL: Denver Broncos' fans finally get to see the AFC champions
Their plans for a tickertape parade through downtown Denver scuttled by a miserable performance in the Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos hadn't heard the roar from supportive fans in more than six months.
That ended Sunday when Peyton Manning walked out 10 minutes before practice at Sports Authority Field in Englewood, Colo., and began signing autographs and then continued with his touchdown throws to Julius Thomas.
The Broncos closed their Dove Valley training facilities to the public during training camp this year because of a $35 million construction project. They're working out in relative solitude except for three workouts at their downtown stadium, where Sunday's practice drew 21,933 fans.
"It makes it easier," defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson said. "Training camp goes by a little smoother with the fans being involved. So, it's always a pleasure to have them around cheering us on."
This was the Broncos' first appearance at Sports Authority Field since Jan. 19, when they beat New England 26-16 in the AFC title game.
Former Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib, one of the Broncos' free agent acquisitions this offseason, was injured that day when he collided with Wes Welker.
"We don't even talk about it. It's a football play, man," Talib said. "We don't talk about nothing that happened last year."
That would be a good advice for the rest of the Broncos, whose record-shattering season ended with a dud of a Super Bowl when they were blown out 43-8 by Seattle.
Afterward, general manager John Elway made wholesale changes to his defense, signing Talib, T.J. Ward and DeMarcus Ware, who missed the last half of Sunday's practice with what coach John Fox termed a minor "lower leg bruise."
Only three defensive players who started in the Super Bowl Danny Trevathan, Terrance Knighton and Nate Irving were in the lineup when the Broncos' starters squared off Sunday.
"Once again, I got a little teary eyed," said cornerback Rahim Moore, who made his first appearance at Denver's downtown stadium since Nov. 17, the night before he underwent emergency surgery on his left calf. "I missed the stadium. It feels like my first time out here."
Same with star pass-rusher Von Miller, who hadn't suited up here since blowing out his right knee in December.
"I got an opportunity to go out on the field and play the game I love, and that's what's most important to me," said Miller. "The crowd, it always pumps the juices."
49ers' James injured
Running back LaMichael James was carted off the field with an apparently dislocated left elbow early in San Francisco's practice on Sunday, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
James' injury occurred a day after fellow running back Kendall Hunter suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Hunter started training as the No. 2 running back behind Frank Gore.
Rookie Carlos Hyde and rehabbing Marcus Lattimore are now the most likely candidates to fill the void in San Francisco's running game.
Vikings extend TE
The Minnesota Vikings have signed tight end Kyle Rudolph to a five-year contract extension. The deal is worth $36.5 million with just $20 million guaranteed. Rudolph caught 30 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns last year, despite missing eight games with a broken foot.