Published May 03, 2010
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Tim Tebow isn't the only risk the Denver Broncos took in the NFL draft.
While all eyes were on the former Florida quarterback during the Broncos' three-day rookie minicamp over the weekend, two players who figure to have more of an immediate impact served as sideline spectators.
Wide receivers Demaryius "Bay-Bay" Thomas and Eric Decker are both recovering from foot surgeries.
"Me and Bay-Bay are kind of cheerleaders at this point," Decker said.
The pair of draft picks are the biggest receivers on the Broncos' roster and they'll be expected to strut their stuff on the football field as soon as they're healthy.
Thomas, the Broncos' top overall draft pick, broke his left foot doing drills just before the NFL combine. He said he should be able to run routes in two weeks when the veterans and rookies gather for the start of the team's offseason training activities.
Decker, a third-round draft pick whose collegiate career at Minnesota was cut short last fall because of a ligament sprain in his left foot, hopes to hit the field in June and be able to participate fully by the start of training camp in late July.
Although Thomas, selected 22nd out of Georgia Tech, and Decker, taken 87th, didn't get to show scouts their skills this spring, Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said he relies more on game film anyway and his medical staff told him both receivers are on target in their rehab.
The Broncos needed a big, athletic wide receiver after trading two-time Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall to the Miami Dolphins and they got two: Thomas is 6-foot-3 and 224 pounds and Decker is 6-3 and 218 pounds.
In Thomas, McDaniels hopes he's found Marshall's lookalike but not act-alike.
Despite three straight 100-catch seasons, Marshall's antics on and off the field made him a chronic headache for the organization. Thomas said he thinks he convinced the Broncos they should select him in part because "I'm a good guy."
He said living with his uncle, James Brown, a preacher, after his mother and grandmother were incarcerated on drug charges when he was 12, is what set him on the right path.
The Broncos liked his character but loved his potential even more and made the former Yellow Jackets' deep threat the first wide receiver taken in the draft. Dez Bryant went two spots later to Dallas at No. 24.
Thomas said he was surprised he was drafted ahead of the more polished Bryant. After all, Thomas played in Paul Johnson's triple-option offense at Georgia Tech, a system that's considered ill-suited for the NFL.
Thomas watched the rookie camp forlornly.
"I want to do stuff but I can't, so it's still tough," he said.
He's eager to get on the field because he knows he has a steep learning curve.
"It's a lot different than what I come from," Thomas said. "I'll just have to work hard."
One thing that could help him in his adjustment: the attention is all on Tebow, not Thomas. While dozens of reporters and cameramen swarmed Tebow coming off the field Friday, Thomas meandered off the field almost anonymously.
Is that a good thing?
"Maybe," Thomas said, cracking a smile.
Although they didn't participate in practices, Thomas and Decker said they got plenty out of their first foray into the NFL last week, attending meetings, watching film and learning the thick playbook.
Once they're able to get on the field and sprint and cut, Decker and Thomas will have to catch up quickly because the Broncos are expecting a lot out of them next season, health permitting.
McDaniels and quarterback Kyle Orton have both talked about adding more of a downfield passing attack and these two rookies figure to contribute. The Broncos also will be paying Thomas first-round money and they'll need a speedy return on their investment.
Before he got hurt, Decker was considered among the top receivers in the country and many scouts were projecting him as a first-rounder. He showed his smarts at the NFL combine by scoring a 43 on the 12-minute, 50-question Wonderlic test that's used to gauge aptitude.
After his injury, Decker got a call from Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley, who suffered the same ligament injury in 2002 when he was with the Indianapolis Colts.
Stokley, who was asked to reach out to Decker by former Broncos assistant coach Jedd Fisch, a coordinator at Minnesota last year, gave Decker advice on how to deal with the injury, the surgery and the long rehab that follows.
Decker said he's sure that he'll be doing fast-food runs for Stokley and the other veterans now just because he's a rookie. As payback for all his advice, he'll have to do more than burgers and fries, though.
"Maybe a couple of dinners," Decker surmised, "and I don't know if I have to baby-sit his kids or what, but I'll help him out somehow."