AURORA, Colo. – A half dozen Denver Broncos visited with survivors of the Colorado theater shooting on Sunday to try to lift their spirits.
The group visited with five patients at the Medical Center of Aurora and also met with the emergency room staff that provided the initial treatment Friday morning for many of the shooting victims of the massacre at a suburban Denver movie theater that left 12 dead, 58 injured and a nation in sorrow.
"What we were trying to do was go in there, show support and try to put a smile on these peoples' faces. But the thing is, they put a smile on our faces," linebacker Joe Mays said.
"They had such positive attitudes. They knew they were blessed to live and they knew they were going to have another chance to walk about with their families."
Mays was joined by linemen Ryan Clady, Chris Kuper and Ben Garland, receiver Eric Decker, tight end Jacob Tamme and former teammate Brian Dawkins, who retired earlier this year.
The players gave up their last Sunday before training camp to lend a measure of comfort to the community.
"We felt this was the least we could do to help them get through this tragic event," Mays said. "We came out of there with just a different mindset on life as well. They were still able to smile and laugh and have people in their corner and by their side. Just to see that couldn't help but smile a smile on our faces and make us think about our lives and being with our families."
Among the patients who received visits from the Broncos was Carey Rottman, 27, a native of Mequon, Wis., who used to play football at Winona State in Minnesota, where he was a running back and faced Kuper's North Dakota teams.
Garland, a Colorado native who attended the Air Force Academy and whose family lost their home in the recent wildfires in the state, tweeted over the weekend that he had planned to attend the new Batman movie at the Century 16 theater where the shooting occurred "but changed my mind" shortly before the midnight premiere.
Quarterback Peyton Manning on Sunday also called four patients who were taken to the Medical Center of Aurora after the shooter unleashed two canisters of gas and opened fire during the Friday midnight premiere of "Dark Knight Rises."
The four-time MVP signed with the Broncos this year after missing the 2011 season with a nerve problem in his neck that weakened his throwing arm.
The Broncos start training camp on Wednesday.
AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton can be reached at astapleton(at)ap.org or follow him at http://twitter.com/arniestapleton