ENGLEWOOD, Co - The yells could be heard loud and clear on Wednesday as the Denver Broncos defense picked off a 49er quarterback for the fourth time.
"Hit the showers!" One Bronco exclaimed, with an expletive potentially mixed in. "This is over!"
It was a mic-drop ending to a contentious practice that featured many scuffles, the Niners couldn't say much, they had been outplayed.
That was Wednesday, though. On Thursday, the guests at UC Health Training Center came out with a chip on their shoulder and an apparent emphasis on making some noise of their own, they had the better practice.
“Speaking for us, we did not practice very well today coming off yesterday, which was very physical," head coach Gary Kubiak admitted after practice. "We have to bounce back. Going against somebody else you find out a lot more about your players. I think our evaluation process this week has been like three games once we get through Saturday. It was good work, and we appreciate them coming in. We appreciate them making the effort to come here and work with us.”
Chippy, chippy, chippy
Maybe it's the 49ers taking on the name of their head coach or maybe it's because the defending Super Bowl champs have a hard time keeping their mouths shut, whatever it is, these teams learned to dislike each other quickly on Wednesday and things only got hotter on Thursday.
Within the first 30 minutes of practice, we had our first bench-clearer of the day. It appeared Taurean Nixon was caught on the bottom of a pile up that included multiple players in Red & Gold. Obviously, the Broncos didn't take too kindly to that and thus the fight.
Unlike many of these camp skirmishes, though, this fire was not easily doused. The teams continued to jaw and push and jaw and push until Kubiak was forced to stand literally in between the two sides. Even that didn't work, so after another minor scuffle, the Broncos' coach had seen enough, calling a team huddle.
“I told them, ‘Do you want to practice now or do you want to come back tonight?’" The coach explained afterward. "We were too busy with other stuff, personal agendas, instead of practicing football. We settled down and finished up.”
Don't be surprised if this trend continues in Saturday's game.
Trevor Siemian was average on the day he was named Saturday's starter, Mark Sanchez didn't blow anyone away after it was finally made definitive that he's not the starter by default and Paxton Lynch continued on his pace of slow but sure improvement.
In the first drill alone, Siemian was nearly intercepted, and both Sanchez and Lynch were sacked. In the second drill, Lynch was intercepted—prompting a huge eruption from the Niner sideline, and both Sanchez and Siemian were highly inaccurate. Not the performance you'd expect to see out of a unit, or an entire team, on their final day of training camp.
It seemed to be one of the rare days where Paxton Lynch was the best QB and Gary Kubiak reinforced that by going out of his way to mention him after practice.
"I’m really impressed with our young quarterback, the way he’s practiced the last two days," he said. "I think he’s gotten better. He’s getting faster in what he’s doing.”
Kubiak said after practice that he'd like to name a starter after Saturday's game, but he's not yet sure if he will.
Tidwell did well
One of the coolest aspects of following an entire training camp—every practice, every walk-through, every day—is seeing players improve with your own two eyes.
When camp began, it seemed Rangeview High School product John Tidwell had simply been done a favor by the Broncos, due to his local ties. The undrafted rookie was often burned and, to be honest, it didn't look like he was having much fun out there. But the kid kept his head down, continued to try to keep up with players like Jordan Taylor and Bennie Fowler and all the other talented wideouts the Broncos have behind their first-team, and he made massive strides.
The University of Sioux Falls product was solid as he played most of the second and third quarters in last week's preseason game and on the final day of training camp he made his best play of his time as a Bronco. No. 45 rose up and picked off a Jeff Driskel pass in team drills and took it 30 yards to the house.
Often times, you can tell how well-liked a player is based on the reaction of their teammates when they make a big play—Tidwell was mobbed by smiling faces.
You can officially breathe a full sigh of relief when it comes to Derek Wolfe; Kubiak said after practice he should be able to play on Saturday.
Darius Kilgo is now playing nose tackle and defensive end as the Broncos work to fill the void of Vance Walker, "He is going to have to play both spots," Kubiak said.
Jeff Heuerman didn't practice once again with what Kubiak described Wednesday as hamstring tightness.
Rookie Adam Gotsis got into a scuffle with former Bronco Zane Beadles.