ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Linebacker Zaire Anderson popped Steven Ridley and the Denver Broncos’ fortified offensive line wasn’t having any of it.
Still seething from the big hit absorbed by Emmanuel Sanders a day earlier, the big men sprinted to the sideline Monday and the first scuffle of training camp was underway.
The tough talk persisted after the players were separated.
With nobody injured in the fracas, general manager John Elway and coach Vance Joseph could smile at the spunk they’d just witnessed.
“When you see your offensive line defend your running back — right, wrong or indifferent — you kind of enjoy seeing that, because you want to build toughness,” Joseph said. “But you can’t fight in games, and that’s the part from my chair you can’t allow. You can’t build habits of fighting when adversity strikes because in a football game it’s going to be a bad result.”
This, however, served as the first real sign that Elway’s offseason project to inject some venom into his O-line was working.
A leaky line occupied Elway’s to-do list for a third consecutive offseason. He drafted tackle Garett Bolles and signed free agents Ron Leary, Menelik Watson and Allen Barbre, all of whom have a noted nasty streak, while hoping that Ty Sambrailo could toughen up in the weight room following two years of health issues.
It was Sambrailo who led the charge when the offense took umbrage at Ridley getting pin-balled.
Players on both sides appreciated the O-line’s chutzpah.
“First two days in pads, you’re going to have that, and if you didn’t, it wouldn’t be a good football team,” Ridley said. “So, we’ve got to tone it down and love on each other a little bit but at the same time we’re going to bang it out when it’s time. So, I love it. I love it up front from the big boys.”
Linebacker Todd Davis loved seeing the offense punch back a day after both quarterbacks looked awful and nobody had Sanders’ back when he landed on his back after getting blasted by safety T.J. Ward.
“I love it,” Davis said. “I think they’re coming out and showing us that they want to fight this year. So, I’m definitely excited. I love the push-back. I love seeing them willing to fight.”
QB COMPETITION TRENDING TOWARD SIEMIAN: A day after blasting both of his quarterbacks for a bad day of practice, Joseph was pleased with the progress Monday with both players sharp early: “It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than yesterday.”
Trevor Siemian was steady with a couple of big passes, but consistency continued to elude Paxton Lynch, who followed a pair of touchdown throws with consecutive interceptions during 7-on-7 drills (and he nearly had a third straight pass get picked off).
Lynch started out camp with a pair of solid practices but has slipped each day as offensive coordinator Mike McCoy continued to add to his quarterbacks’ plates.
Siemian hasn’t had many “wow” moments but is making the right reads and correct calls — which Joseph has said are his top criteria.
“I’m looking for decision-making,” Joseph reiterated Monday.
Joseph, however, is in no hurry to name his starter, which allows time for Lynch to make a push after an off day Tuesday. The truest tests come in the preseason and in dual practices with the 49ers Aug. 16-17.
NOTES: DE Derek Wolfe, who missed a practice last week with food poisoning, sustained a right shoulder stringer midway through Monday’s workout. He’s expected back Wednesday as is rookie CB Marcus Rios (groin). … With Leary (groin) out, Billy Turner started at right guard.
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton