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NFL Denver Broncos

Denver Broncos Send Message to Willis McGahee

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

If running back Willis McGahee was trying to send the Denver Broncos a message by not showing up for voluntary workouts, then the Broncos sent a stronger message back on the first day of the team’s mandatory mini-camp.

It’s well known by now that McGahee chose not to participate in OTA’s over the past three weeks and while the workouts are voluntary, there’s little doubt that he now faces an uphill battle just to make the team. To be fair, McGahee has said that his absence was not a protest of his contract or a reaction to the Broncos drafting of Montee Ball.

He can say that all he wants, I’m just not buying it.

McGahee did say on Tuesday that he expects to be the starter on opening night versus the Baltimore Ravens, but he might be the only one that believes that. In the first of two practices on Tuesday, McGahee only got a couple of reps at the very end of practice. The message from John Fox and the Broncos to McGahee could not be any clearer: yes the OTA’s are voluntary, but there are consequences for staying away.

McGahee’s stance has been that he is just following the same routine that he has for his entire career. I don’t doubt that he is, but circumstances change. In the past, including his first two seasons with the Broncos, McGahee was the unquestioned starter and in the case of the Broncos, he had little to no competition. That’s no longer the case, and McGahee made a tactical mistake in staying away.

He is coming off of another knee injury and faces stiff competition from rookie Ball and second-year player Ronnie Hillman. This is nothing new, but the Broncos’ response to McGahee on Tuesday was a telling one. He should have read the writing on the wall and said to himself: ‘between the injury and the competition, I really need to get myself to Denver and start a new offseason tradition.’

Two of the stars of OTA’s, if you can have stars in June, have been Ball and Hillman, and they have taken advantage of McGahee’s absence. Everyone from John Elway to Fox to Peyton Manning has gone out of their way to praise Ball and say that they expect big things from the rookie. I’m sure they believe that, but there were also some not-so-veiled shots at McGahee in those comments.

The loudest shot came on Tuesday, however, when McGahee spent a majority of the practice watching from the sidelines. As the week goes on, he will get more and more reps but if he thinks he is going into training camp as the unquestioned starter, then he’s in for a shocker.

The shocker, in my mind, would be if he makes the team — forget about starting.

The workouts are voluntary until everyone else shows up; then, voluntary goes out the window. I sure hope McGahee enjoyed his time away from football, because there’s more of that coming.

Follow me on Twitter @Jemorrone7