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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Mark Sanchez wasn’t about to let a weight room mishap keep him from running the Denver Broncos’ offense when the Super Bowl champs began OTAs.
Sanchez donned a black wrap on his surgically repaired left thumb and got in plenty of work Tuesday, defying the odds and enjoying some cachet among his teammates.
“That’s what you like to see in a competitor,” cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said.
Sanchez tore a thumb ligament on his non-throwing hand on May 13 and underwent surgery 48 hours later. He was originally expected to miss the start of organized team activities this week, which might have stalled his quest to win the starting job ahead of first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch and second-year pro Trevor Siemian.
Instead, he led the way during individual and 7-on-7 drills before giving way to Lynch and Siemian during the team periods.
“Anytime you’re not in there full go, you’re just itching to get back into the swing of things,” Sanchez said. “But this was better than nothing and we’ll just take it smart, slow and steady.”
Coach Gary Kubiak said it was obviously important for Sanchez to lead the offense during Denver’s first practice since the Broncos hoisted the Lombardi Trophy back on Feb. 7.
“Oh, I thought it was huge,” said Sanchez, who termed his injury a “minor setback” and “no big deal” and soon he’ll look back on it and “it will be nothing.”
This was the first real opportunity for Sanchez to face the league’s top defense, the one that throttled Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl.
“There’s not a lot of room out there on the field,” Sanchez said. “Those guys cover ground quickly and there’s a reason they got so much publicity last year.”
When Sanchez retreated to the sideline, Lynch and Siemian showed off strong arms.
Whereas Sanchez drew kudos for playing hurt, Lynch was quick to make a strong impression himself.
“The rookie looked really good,” receiver Emmanuel Sanders said.
“He looked like, hey, that’s why we drafted him in the first round,” safety Darian Stewart said. “He definitely has what it takes.”
And what about Siemian, who was a seventh-rounder in 2015 and has but one snap to his pro resume? He has the most experience in Kubiak’s system and it certainly showed.
“Not many guys are asking about him, but I’m really excited about Trevor,” Kubiak said. “He’s got a chance to be a really good player. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He basically took the first group today.”
Harris said Siemian “has a great maturity to him.”
“He’s kind of a sleeper I would say because of course Mark and Paxton are going to be the headlines but Trevor, man, he knows the offense, and he’s very comfortable and he can throw the ball, too,” Harris said. “And we’ve also seen him make big plays in the preseason games under the lights. So, I wouldn’t sleep on Trevor winning the job, either.”
Lynch, who hit Jordan Taylor with his first TD pass as a pro, is adjusting to the West Coast offense after running the spread at Memphis. So, he’s going to have to adjust to making calls and reading defenses at the line of scrimmage and while backpedaling after taking the snap from under center rather than in the shotgun.
“It’s kind of my first time doing it, being under center, having routes and throwing on time. But today I felt pretty good,” Lynch said.
He looked good, too, Harris said.
“I think he still has some things to process a little bit faster. We’re very vanilla. Everything is very vanilla. Everything will turn up as OTAs go on,” Harris said. “I think for the first day coming out against us, I think he did a great job.”
Working with three QBs splitting snaps isn’t ideal, but “we’re not the first team that has ever dealt with a little quarterback controversy,” Sanders said. “The thing is, competition always brings the best out of guys. We’re going to see who the best guy is at the end of this process.”
Notes: OLB DeMarcus Ware (back) and DE Kenny Anunike (knee) were held out. … TE Virgil Green recently underwent finger surgery and will “miss probably a good portion of OTAs,” Kubiak said.
Denver Broncos- quarterback Mark Sanchez looks to hand off the ball during NFL football practice, Tuesday, May 24, 2016, at the team’s headquarters in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton