The Sports Xchange

NFL Team Report - Denver Broncos - INSIDE SLANT

Helmets have popped off in practice. Big hits -- although they have not yet led to immediate injuries -- have been the rule since the Broncos began practicing in pads.

Even with Von Miller completing recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and DeMarcus Ware out of practice in recent days because of a leg bruise, the defense is faster and more intense than it was last year. Some of that is because of the new acquisitions in the offseason: Ware, T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib, who collectively bring what Ware calls "brutal nasty"

But some of the defense's attitude owes to its motivation, of which its members are reminded every time a highlight from Super Bowl XLVIII is shown. Nearly six months later, the entire team is driven by the memory of the 43-8 loss to the Seahawks. It is a scab that has yet to heal; whether on offense or defense, every Bronco was kicked in the tail and kicked while down -- repeatedly -- for nearly four hours on Feb. 2.

"We still have a stinging feeling in our gut from the last game of the season," said running back Montee Ball. "That's most definitely going to fuel us, keep us going."

Ball's sentiments are widespread among the Broncos. But they're nothing compared to the vitriol of defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, who missed the Super Bowl with a dislocated hip and watched helplessly as the Broncos stumbled and the Seahawks strutted.

"F-- Seattle. Write it down, take a picture," he said.

It was personal for Vickerson. The Seahawks traded for him in April 2010, then released him four and a half months later, as a part of the 284 roster moves Seattle made in Pete Carroll's first year as head coach.

Nearly four years later, he saw them again, and as the Broncos' deficit mounted, he ached.

"Man, I cried. I ain't going to lie to you," Vickerson said. "Me working all that time and me trying to get to a Super Bowl and it finally happens and it's a former team and I can't play and you want to play and all the emotions just build up inside. I couldn't hold it back. I was trying to fight it, but that's just how bad I wanted it.

"So for me to work my whole career to get to a Super Bowl and all that, it was definitely hard. You're sitting there watching especially with the 'what if' factor -- I can't do anything about it."

Although other Broncos don't have the personal history with Seattle, the same "what if" sits on the minds of Von Miller, Ryan Clady, Derek Wolfe, Chris Harris and Rahim Moore. All five are starters, like Vickerson. All were on injured reserve by Super Sunday. The difference in attitude is as much because of their emotion at having been unable to prevent the loss as anything brought by the newcomers.

Because defense is more fueled by emotion than offense, at times that side of the line of scrimmage has dominated. That was true Wednesday, when the first-team defense won a two-minute drill period, capping the series with an interception return for a touchdown from Kayvon Webster, a backup last year who was unable to play much in the Super Bowl because of a fractured thumb.

"You can see a bunch of guys playing fast, playing physical, playing violent," said Vickerson, who on Wednesday saw his first 11-on-11 work since his hip injury. "Playing together, playing as one heartbeat, it always gets you going."


NFL Team Report - Denver Broncos - NOTES, QUOTES

-- Even if the Broncos had been making news the last week, training camp would have been a quiet affair because of the absence of fans from their practices this year.

The ongoing construction projects at team headquarters -- which include erecting a new indoor practice facility -- prevented the team from being able to host fans for the daily practices. They moved two sessions to Sports Authority Field at Mile High; those practices attracted a combined 31,140 fans, 10,785 fewer than the 15 sessions at team headquarters attracted last year.