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27.09.2018 12:38
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The most intriguing new face turning heads at the Denver Broncos off-season workouts isnt Montee Ball or Sylvester Williams. Its third-year tight end Julius Thomas. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound former power forward is finally healthy after spending the bulk of his first two seasons with the Denver Broncos dealing with a bum right ankle. Treating every practice like its game day, Thomas is finally flashing the skills that made him an attractive prospect coming out of Portland State in 2011 even though he had played just one season of college football. Last week, he outraced the safeties and hauled in a 50-yard TD pass from Peyton Manning. This week, he stretched out his long, lean body for a one-handed grab in the flat before weaving his way into the end zone. "It feels great. I mean, just being able to go out there, and run around, and feel healthy," Thomas said. "For so long, I feel like I was dragging a leg around. Just to go out there and feel like Im playing at a high level, its really encouraging and I feel blessed." Cornerback Champ Bailey said hes not surprised Thomas performance. "Hes been doing that for the last two years, it is just getting that opportunity to do it with the first team and getting some reps there," he said. "That is great because he has the talent. Its just all about learning how to play this game and the mental part of it. Weve seen him mature a lot over the past two years." Thomas was a power forward at Portland State who was a bully in the blocks, swatting 62 shots and pulling down 520 rebounds while leading the Vikings to two NCAA tournament appearances. But basketball wasnt really in his blood. He said he never quite felt like the hardwood was really his canvas, figuring hed be more at home pulling down passes than rebounds, blocking linebackers instead of shots. So, once he exhausted his basketball eligibility, and with one scholarship season left, he contacted Vikings football coach Nigel Burton about stepping onto the football field for the first time. Thomas was a quick study, catching 29 passes for 453 yards and earning All-Big Sky Conference first-team honours. His stock soared at the East-West Shrine Game, where he captured the attention of scouts with his athleticism and grabbed a 5-yard TD pass. That was enough to entice the Broncos into selecting him in the fourth round that year, hoping theyd discovered in Thomas the next Antonio Gates, who made a smooth transition from the basketball court at Kent State to the football field and became a perennial Pro Bowler for the San Diego Chargers. Thomas said his basketball background helped him navigate the crash course of NFL football. He makes split-second decisions, deciphers defences, anticipates the action, adjusts on the fly just like he did on the basketball floor. He said shielding a defensive back to give the quarterback an opening is just like posting up a player under the basket to give the point guard a clear passing lane. But Thomas injured his right ankle on his first -- and so far only -- reception of his pro career, and after working out with Manning after the quarterbacks arrival in Denver in March 2012, he discovered he needed an operation that sidelined him again. Hes played just nine games in his NFL career. In this era of ever bigger tight ends like New Englands Rob Gronkowski and offensive mainstays like Gates, Thomas said he can fit right in. "In my mind, I can do the same kinds of things they can," he said. If he can stay healthy, hell get the chance to prove it this season. Thomas is getting more work than he expected this off-season, especially in the passing game, because Joel Dreessen recently underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and wont be back until training camp in late July. "Its been a good deal for Julius in the sense that he gets more opportunities and more reps," coach John Fox said. "Hes a guy that we have a good feeling about his abilities. Now its just a matter of getting him in there, and this gives him a good opportunity." Hes making the most of it, compiling his own highlight reel of jaw-dropping plays. "Im proud for him because he came in and when he first started, everybody thought he was going to be a great player and then he got injured and had his ups and downs, but I knew he was going to be good, because he was a basketball player and most of the basketball players that play football can play," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. "To see him out here doing the things hes doing is amazing." Manning loves having another big receiver lining up with him. "Hes a great athlete. A big target. If you cant complete a ball to Julius as a quarterback, something is wrong with you," Manning said. "He has a great wingspan and great size and jumping ability. I think hes just continuing to get better for us." Thomas made the most of his late start in college football and he aims to do the same in the NFL now that his right ankle is mended. "Its been a frustrating experience but I try not to focus on that," Thomas said. "Its just about making it to the next day, the next play and coming out here and trying to improve, and really, thats where all my focus is now. Im doing what I can to get better." Gregory Polanco Jersey . Inter president Erick Thohir says in a club statement on Wednesday that Vidic is "one of the worlds best defenders and his qualities, international pedigree, and charisma will be an asset. Dave Parker Jersey . 31, the CFL club announced Monday. The team also has yet to decide on the future of Doug Berry, who began the season as a consultant to the head coach but took over the offensive co-ordinators duties in July. . The home side created most of the chances but struggled to break down Braunschweigs resilient defence, resulting in the Bundesligas 1,000th scoreless draw. Corey Dickerson Jersey . -- Teemu Selanne scored the first goal of his 22nd NHL season, and the Anaheim Ducks extended the best start in franchise history with their fifth straight victory, 3-2 over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night. Custom Pittsburgh Pirates Jerseys . Neymar curled home a free kick from just outside the area to put the 2014 World Cup host ahead in the 44th minute. Three minutes after the break, a simple through pass from Paulinho freed Oscar and the Chelsea star rounded goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong to extend Brazils lead. Champion trail runner Dave Mackey posted some dramatic news on his Facebook page Thursday about his long recovery from his well-documented?trail running accident in May 2015. After more than 16 months of surgeries, physical therapy and continued complications, the 46-year-old trail runner announced that hes decided to have his lower left leg amputated below the knee.During what was expected to be a routine trail run in the mountains that frame the western edge of Boulder, Colo., Mackey fell off a rock and tumbled more than 20 feet, badly breaking his left leg in the process. After seven surgeries during a three-week hospital stay, Mackey returned home with his injured leg intact, albeit with an external bracing system and crutches to help him get around. Although he recovered enough to walk with a significant limp over the next year, he still had mobility issues, internal infections and constant pain.Several more surgeries -- including his most recent procedure about three months ago -- helped him walk without a cane. But continued complications with the repaired leg put him in the tough place of opting for more surgeries or permanently amputating his lower left leg. He talked through the scenarios with numerous doctors, as well as family and friends, and decided that he will have the amputation surgery on Nov. 1.Related story from Mackey endures long road to recoveryyMackey, a Hoka-sponsored runner who works as a physician assistant, has won U.ddddddddddddS. trail running championships for 50K, 50 miles and 100K distance and won the Montrail Cup trail running series in 2004 and 2011. Hes a two-time U.S. ultrarunner of the year with a long list of trail running and adventure racing victories, plus a handful of records and fastest known times to his credit. In 2007, he became the first trail runner to run under 7 hours for the famous rim-to-rim-to-rim?trail run across the Grand Canyon and back when he ran the 42-mile route in 6:59:56 in 2011.Although hes has been able to ride a bike for more than a year, he hasnt been able to run, let alone walk without a significant limp. He said on Monday that hes most interested in?regaining his health and being pain-free, and believes once he has a prosthetic, hell be able to resume life as it was before his accident. If all goes as planned, he will be able to run, ski and walk his kids to school without pain.Im happy, or maybe relieved, to know there will be some finality to it, Mackey told? Tuesday. 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