Originally written on BroncoTalk  |  Last updated 6/14/12

CHARLOTTE,NC - NOVEMBER 21: Head coach John Fox of the Carolina Panthers watches from the sidelines during the first half of the game against the Arizona Cardinals on November 21, 2004 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Denver Broncos head coach John Fox leads his players during an NFL football practice at the team's training facility in Englewood, Colo., on Thursday, June 14, 2012. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

With the conclusion of 2012 Mini-Camp and OTA’s today, Denver Broncos players have six weeks off. Six glorious weeks of summer vacation, rehabbing, relaxing, and travelling (and absolutely, positively no D.U.I.’s, D.J. Williams). They won’t return to Dove Valley until training camp reportedly begins on July 25, and then the real work begins.

Players should make the most of this time off, right?

Not so fast, says Broncos coach John Fox.

“We have high expectations, and [we want them] to come back in the best shape of their life,” Fox said after practice Thursday. “You know, they’ve worked very hard during this offseason [and we told them] not to lose that over this little break before we start the real race.”

The real race is, of course, the Broncos’ quest for a Lombardi trophy, something they haven’t realistically set their sights upon in four seasons. The addition of Peyton Manning changes all that.

But the Broncos know Manning may only have two or three more healthy years left in this league. John Fox’s message is for his Broncos players not to blow this opportunity.

“I’m not going to put a prediction on it. I’m just pleased with everybody’s effort, and I thought we got a lot accomplished,” said Fox. “We’ve still got a lot left to accomplish. All in all, we still have a long way to go. We’re just coming out of the blocks, and we’ve created some good competition. The personnel department has done a fantastic job. My experience is that competition brings the best out of guys. We’ve got a lot of races, but we’re just getting started.”

The competition was already coming into shape during Mini-Camp, according to reports. Tight end Joel Dreessen has looked impressive and will push Jacob Tamme as Manning’s top tight end in camp. Center C.J. Davis saw work with the second-team unit, a surprising development for the oft-injured free agent pickup. Drayton Florence moved ahead of Chris Harris at nickelback for some work Thursday, and the backup QB’s all had a few rounds with team work for the first public practice this offseason.

Denver Broncos tight end Joel Dreessen catches a pass during an NFL football practice at the team's training facility in Englewood, Colo., on Thursday, June 14, 2012. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Indeed, the Broncos are set for one of the most exciting training camps in team history, especially if players take Fox’s words to heart and return in tip-top form.

“We have to come back in the best shape of our lives,” Dreessen said. “Our standard is to compete every single week and do what we can to win a world championship.”

“It usually goes by pretty quick,” Brandon Stokley said of the six-week break. “It’s not really like you can get your mind and your body away from it, like you can just go to Hawaii for six weeks. You’ve got to stay in it, keep working out, keep training because training camp is right around the corner and you can’t let your body go.”

That isn’t to say Broncos players shouldn’t take this opportunity to re-charge.

“We tell our guys their brain is the most important muscle in their body,” said Fox. “Not too many people run six miles every day [leading] up to a marathon, and we’re involved in a marathon as far as football goes. It’s important to rest the brain and maintain what we’ve built in the offseason and come back in good shape. [For the coaches], we’ll take a little family time. It’s like the calm before the storm.”

A storm these 2012 Broncos hope leads to a sunny Spring hoisting the Lombardi trophy.


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