Nathaniel Hackett knows he’ll have to hold back early in Broncos camp
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — A key plot thread of the Broncos’ 2022 tale will involve Nathaniel Hackett’s unbridled enthusiasm.
He will bounce from station to station in practice with the same enthusiasm you would have expected from him at age 14 when he hung out at training camps where his father, Paul Hackett, worked as an assistant coach.
After 16 seasons as an assistant in college and the NFL, the younger Hackett now gets his first shot to run the show. But he knows that he will have to keep things in check.
“[As] coaches, we’re very excited. And we want to come out the gate rolling,” Hackett said. “It’s practice, we’re on the field, you want to do every single thing you possibly can.”
But discretion is the better part of valor, as the cliche goes.
“I think [it’s] being able to sit back and understand, it is a marathon,” Hackett said. “And it is a long camp. It’s a long preseason.
“I think that’s something that I’ve learned over time — you just can’t go crazy in these first couple of days. You’ve got to slowly work them into it. You’ve gotta be sure that you’re giving them enough time to recover.”
And the practice protocols negotiated by the NFL and NFL Players Association provide a failsafe on some things.
For the first four days of training camp, teams cannot have full-contact, full-pad work. Players can wear shells on the third and fourth days.
If you venture to UCHealth Training Center this week for one of the Broncos’ first four sessions and want to see full-pad work, you’ll be disappointed. But the lack of pads doesn’t mean the work cannot be intense. OTAs and minicamp crackled with more intensity than in other recent years.
“There’s so much excitement, there’s so much energy, so much juice,” safety Justin Simmons said. “With the coaching staff and the guys that we have, you felt that just in OTAs, so for [Wednesday], it’s going to be so hard to level back the energy, the excitement and the juice for so many of the guys, because you just get so excited.”
However, it’s not about being ready for Wednesday, or even preseason games. It’s about preparing for the Seattle Seahawks and the foes beyond.
“You just want it to be Week 1, Seattle, tomorrow,” Simmons said. “But there’s still so much work that has to be put in. There’s so much film study, practice, meetings individually, player-only meetings, there’s so much that goes into being ready Week 1, that you do have to at times be able to settle down, scale back and evaluate where you’re at.”
Meanwhile, Hackett will try to figure out the right balance between maximizing the moment and playing the long game.
“The season’s different with this 17th game, and then the playoffs. I mean, it is a long season,” he said. “And I love the season, don’t get me wrong, but it is long. And we’ve just got to make sure everybody’s fresh. That’s so important.
“So, there’s that fine balance between working everybody hard enough, but at the same time, letting them recover and letting them be getting to that highest level they possibly can as we progress throughout the season.”