'Like Walking on Eggshells'


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Jan 22, 2006
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'Like Walking on Eggshells'

Former Division II All-American Kuper Was Quickly Thrown Into Fire

By Andrew Mason

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It didn't take long for Chris Kuper to learn about one of the most evident differences between Division II and the National Football League.

No, we're not referring to the mere size or mass of the playbook. Rather, it's how quickly he and Denver's other rookies are expected to absorb the contents therein. The transition and learning curve isn't gentle; the first days of offseason organized team activities are spent trying to teach Kuper and his fellow newcomers every nuance it contains.

"It's the whole book the first couple of weeks, and they're installing new stuff every day," Kuper said. "That two weeks (of quarterback camp) was kind of like walking on eggshells, trying to figure things out by watching the vets, and just trying to get it right on the field.

"There's no comparison. It's a different realm."

Far different from what he experienced at the University of North Dakota, where, in spite of the program's low profile in Division II, he still managed to nab the notice of NFL scouts enough to collar an invitation to the National Scouting Combine, where he had his first contact with the Broncos.

It quickly became a place he wanted to go.

"They were the top team as far as being a team of prestige, and one I could fit in with," Kuper said.

It also helped that Kuper would train at Velocity Sports Performance, a nearby complex that allowed him to get familiar with Denver -- and with now-teammate Tom Nalen.

"It just seemed like a great place to live and to play," Kuper said. "When I was out there, I went and saw the AFC Championship (Game) out there, and the atmosphere was unbelievable."

Being a part of that atmosphere, though, will take some work. In recent years, rookie offensive linemen have barely seen the field in their opening seasons. Center Tom Nalen is the only member of the Broncos' starting front to have started as a rookie; left guard Ben Hamilton didn't even play in his first NFL season. Cooper Carlisle only played one game as a rookie on the offensive line (although he did play in 14 on special teams); George Foster played in just one game in his 2003 rookie year; Matt Lepsis spent his first season on the non-football injury list.

So Kuper has braced himself. If the starting offensive line stays healthy, he knows playing time will be scant if recent history holds up.

"If they don't think I'm ready, then I'll probably know that I'm not ready, either," he said. "Just as long as I'm on the team and I'm getting some reps in practice, and just continuing to learn, I'll be okay."

That makes his individual goals as a rookie clear.

"I just want to make this team and be someone that my team can count on," Kuper said. "If there are injuries, I want to be able to come in and not have a drop-off."
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