Julius Thomas missed the Denver Broncos' annual summer scrimmage with a bruised thigh, so Jacob Tamme stepped up and played the starring role alongside Peyton Manning.
Tamme stretched out and snared Manning's high pass for a one-handed 17-yard touchdown grab with Omar Bolden in coverage, the highlight of the short scrimmage before 38,620 fans on a sundrenched Saturday afternoon at Sports Authority Field.
"Jacob is always there when you need him," said Manning, who also played with Tamme in Indianapolis. "He is very dependable. He and (safety David) Bruton are our top two special teams players and at the same time Jacob has always been a productive offensive player.
"Julius was down today. We don't change our offense, we don't change plays. We call the same plays and heck of a catch on his touchdown, almost another heck of a catch on the fade to the end zone."
Tamme couldn't quite hold onto the other pass Manning threw his way in the end zone, also leading him to avoid the defender.
"Yeah, I would have liked to have that one," Tamme said. "... We'll go back and look at it and see what we can clean up. But I think overall we did a decent job of doing what we set out to do and kind of got a good dress rehearsal and live tackling for this week coming up."
It was the third and final public practice for the Broncos, whose training headquarters are closed for a $35 million makeover.
And it served as a tuneup for the preseason opener here Thursday night against Seattle, which whipped Denver in the Super Bowl six months ago.
Somebody asked Manning if there was a statement to be made against the Seahawks, and Manning didn't bite.
"It's a preseason game," he said. "No, I don't think so."
Manning and the starting offense played about a dozen snaps against the second-string defense, and then his backup, Brock Osweiler, worked with the second-string offense against the front-line defense, although DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr., still getting back up to speed following injuries, were held out.
Osweiler had some nice plays and he had the defense off-balance when he took off and scrambled, capitalizing on a unit that's grown accustomed to facing a pocket quarterback in training camp.
"Brock has had a good camp," Manning said. "He has just improved every single year he's been here and I thought he had a really good day today, as well."
Up until Saturday, Denver's defense had largely gotten the best of Manning & Co., but the unit wasn't as sharp against the second-teamers.
"We've still got some work to do, that's what we learned," said safety T.J. Ward, one of the free agents general manager John Elway brought in to give his defense an edge after the Super Bowl debacle.
"It's the first time we went live, so the tackling was a bit rusty. That will come the more we go live and the more we really tackle. So, we're not really worried about that right now."
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was happy with the workload and was looking forward to a day off.
"With how my body feels, I'm just kind of happy that we only went 12 plays, he said. "It kind of needs a break right now. We've been running a lot, doing a lot of extra work. So, this time off will be very beneficial."
Afterward, coach John Fox said Thomas was held out "just to be safe" because of a bruised thigh, which he didn't think was anything serious. "He just got bumped at practice. We just didn't want to risk it. He'll be fine."
Thanks to Tamme, apparently so will Denver's offense when he's on the sideline.
Notes: Fox planned to fly to Canton, Ohio, to watch Michael Strahan's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. ... The veterans gave the rookies crazy haircuts Friday night. "It's kind of a tradition," Fox said. "I learned a long time ago the only difference between a good one and a bad one is about two weeks." ... Before the game, 50 members of the military went through a "military combine" sponsored by USAA.
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