By Emily Kaplan
Pro Football Writers of America
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Under a cloudless sky, with temperatures hovering over 60 degrees, the Broncos walked onto the field at Levi Stadium on Saturday afternoon for a final brush-up before Super Bowl 50. The AFC Champions completed their typical day-before-a-game walk through, a 45-minute session without helmets or pads. Most players wore sneakers, and some wore baseball caps or sunglasses, as they conducted scripted scenarios on offense, defense and special teams at a light jog pace. No quarterback attempted a throw of more than 10 yards.
All 53 players participated. “Oh yeah, they’re all good,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “With what we did today, they better be able to practice.” Kubiak said there are no changes to the lineup, signifying the three starters nursing injuries last week — safeties T.J. Ward (ankle) and Darian Stewart (knee), and guard Louis Vasquez (knee) —are likely good to go.
Kubiak stressed that the Broncos are trying to mimic their regular schedule as closely as possible, including a Saturday night curfew.
“Oh absolutely there’s a curfew, for me and for them, the coach said. “Same one we have every week. It’s time to get some rest and get ready to go.” Kubiak said before the game he will study “like normal” and “try to relax as much as I can.” Kubiak has been to the Super Bowl six times; three as a player, three times as an assistant coach. Leading up to his Super Bowl head coaching debut, he has consulted mentors. “I’ve been around some good Super Bowl coaches,” Kubiak said. “I’ve definitely talked to a lot of guys, [Mike] Shanahan, [Dan] Reeves, who have been there before. I try to take a little bit from all of them and try to do it the best way we think to do it.”
The Broncos arrived via a team bus shortly before 11 a.m. They entered the locker rooms they will use on Sunday and changed into the same white uniforms they will wear, complete with a Super Bowl patch in the top left corner. Many players documented their walk out of the tunnel on smartphones, in awe of the stadium.
The team then posed for a customary group photo. Sitting in the center of he second row was Annabel Bowlen, wife of owner Pat Bowlen, wearing a tea-length white dress. She was flanked by offensive captain Peyton Manning to her right and defensive captain DeMarcus Ware to her left. Annabel Bowlen watched most of practice, as did General Manager John Elway, who wore aviator sunglasses as he roamed the end zone.
The empty stadium was eerily silent, save for a stray helicopter or plane overhead — until 11:30. Just as Saturday is typically family day in Denver, the Broncos kept with tradition by inviting their traveling party onto the field. A parade of nearly 1,000 people poured onto the sideline — friends and family of the players, coaches, as well as the support staff. As practice ended at 11:45, players went over to take photos and greet their guests. Manning made a bee-line to the end zone where wide receiver DeMaryius Thomas embraced his mother, Katrina Smith. Six months ago, Smith was released after spending 15 years in federal prison. Manning gave Smith a hug, chatted, and the three posed for a photo. “He loves playing with you,” Smith said. Manning smiled, said goodbye, then was among the first players to walk back into the tunnel.