Broncos eager to resume after bye-week break
Broncos coach Josh McDaniels took his kids to the zoo, while rookie Robert Ayers made a quick journey back to South Carolina to visit his mom and squeeze in some bowling. Linebacker Andra Davis kept things simple, hanging out at his house with his family and watching a glut of football. All made for fine distractions over Denver's bye-week break, but now it's back to business. And business is booming for the Broncos, who remain one of three undefeated teams in the league after Minnesota tumbled in Pittsburgh on Sunday. The Broncos (6-0) will attempt to keep the momentum moving forward when they head to Baltimore on Sunday to face the Ravens (3-3). "They're a dangerous team," said Davis, whose team leads the San Diego Chargers by 3 games in the AFC West. "We're not taking them lightly. We've got our hands full." Before returning to work Monday, the Broncos made their first in-season move of the year by signing punter Mitch Berger and waiving Brett Kern. Berger is a 16-year veteran and two-time Pro Bowler who played for Pittsburgh last season. The final straw for Kern may have come when San Diego returner Darren Sproles took a punt 77 yards for a score against Denver last Monday. Kern was averaging 46.1 yards a punt, but ranked near the bottom of the league in net average (34.5). The Broncos also had linebacker/fullback Spencer Larsen return to practice Monday, his first action since injuring his shoulder in a fall in the locker room at Cincinnati before the season opener. Larsen's versatility is one of the reasons the Broncos didn't place him on season-ending injured reserve. Last season at Atlanta, Larsen became just the fourth player in the NFL since 1990 to start on both sides of the ball, taking seven snaps at fullback, 55 at middle linebacker and eight more on special teams. "Spencer's a valuable player on our team," McDaniels said. "Hopefully, he'll be able to make an impact on our team going down the stretch here." While his players departed for some rest and relaxation, McDaniels and his staff stayed behind to dissect the Ravens, who've dropped three in a row, and develop a game plan. But it wasn't all work for McDaniels during the bye. Not only did he visit the zoo, but he spent time helping his son learn to ride his bike without training wheels. Mission accomplished. These days, everything seems to be rolling along smoothly for McDaniels. The Broncos are the surprise of the season after an offseason filled with drama for the first-year head coach. He becomes just the fifth rookie coach since 1966 to start his career with a 6-0 mark. What's more, his quarterback, Kyle Orton, has thrown just one interception - on a Hail Mary pass at the end of a half, no less - and his defense has limited teams to only 10 points in the second half all season. The special teams recently received a boost from Eddie Royal, who became the 11th player in NFL history to return a punt and kickoff for touchdowns in the same game against San Diego. Yet McDaniels refuses to step back and consider what his team has done. They will take on a Ravens team that's long prided themselves on their defensive toughness, a trait Mike Nolan helped instill when he was defensive coordinator in Baltimore from 2002-04. Now, Nolan is beginning to implement that same hard-nosed attitude with Denver. "Every defensive coach in the NFL would like to think of his guys as tough," Nolan said. "If you gather the right individuals, you can put together a defense that can get the job done in the fashion you want." So far, Nolan has done just that, transforming the Broncos into a top-notch squad that's allowing just 11 points a game. They're marching to the beat of 36-year-old veteran safety Brian Dawkins, who provides the intensity. However, Dawkins wasn't on the field Monday during the open portion of practice. He tweaked a hamstring during the first half against San Diego, but returned after halftime. The energetic Dawkins has quickly emerged as the Broncos' emotional leader on the field, a role similar to the one Ray Lewis plays in Baltimore. This Broncos defense certainly wouldn't mind more comparisons to the Ravens, who've traditionally been an aggressive, hard-hitting defense. "They're a prototypical type defense that you want to be," Ayers said. "But we try to form our own identity ... Every defense wants to be known for knocking people in the mouth. We're no different."