It isn't just Xs and Os that Joe Mays is catching up on but also his Zs.
"Right now I'm trying to catch up on sleep and on the playbook," said Mays, who was acquired by the Denver Broncos on Friday night for running back J.J. Arrington.
It was a whirlwind weekend for the special teams standout and backup middle linebacker who had an inkling he was the odd man out in Philly after the Eagles beefed up their linebacking corps during the offseason.
Still, he was surprised when he was summoned to the coach's office.
"Three things came to mind, either I was going to get released, I was going to switch positions, because we were so loaded at linebacker, or I was going to be traded," Mays said Monday.
While sad to leave Philadelphia, he was excited about the Broncos' interest.
"I have to go out and prove myself and prove they made a good move," he said.
Broncos coach Josh McDaniels remembered all too clearly how Mays bullied the Broncos in a game last season.
"Well, he killed us last year in the kicking game, first of all, when we played against Philadelphia. Very physical, fast linebacker that can absolutely play and factor in the kicking game to a strong degree," McDaniels said.
"He's a physical player and he kind of looks like Mike Tyson, and hopefully he'll play like Mike Tyson."
Mays has gotten that before.
"Hey man, I've been called Mike Tyson all my life. I've been called every single name in the book because of me being short and big," he said. "I appreciate him just giving me any type of praise like that. I'll make sure in return I go out and play hard and do the things I need to do to help the team."
Mays embraces being touted as a special teams player more so than a middle linebacker, too.
"I don't mind at all. A lot of players make teams because of special teams," he said. "I don't mind creating a role for myself on this team through special teams. Defense is an added bonus right now for me." An oddity for Mays is he's the first pro football player to play with southpaw quarterbacks Michael Vick and Tim Tebow in the NFL.
But he said there's not a lot of similarities.
"Hey man, he's a different breed," Mays said of Tebow. "He's a big guy, he has a pretty good arm and he's a boulder. He can run over a linebacker. That's a little bit different than the lefty that I knew in Philly."
PENALTY LAP: The Broncos offense was so sloppy during the last part of the 2 1/2-hour practice Monday that Josh McDaniels had the entire unit run a lap around the practice field.
"False start. Not enough in the huddle. Sloppy," McDaniels explained.
It wasn't any one thing or one player who sent him over the top.
"Yeah, too many mistakes late in practice and when you get tired, things like that can happen and we certainly can't allow it to, so just a reminder that that's the kind of stuff that get you beat," McDaniels said.
The players surely didn't like having to shuffle around the field as tired as they were but none were about to grumble about it, either.
"I think it'll make us start realizing that we'd better do things the right way," receiver Brandon Stokley said.
A CUT ABOVE: Right tackle Ryan Harris had a bright red scar running down the side of his neck, the result of an overzealous defensive lineman trying to claw past him in practice Monday.
"I think defensive linemen play with swords sometimes. They have little razors in their hands," Harris said, laughing.
Harris is slowly working his way back into football shape after sitting out the second half of last season with a toe injury.
"Still getting used to just playing football after being off for eight months. But I'm so happy to be out here," Harris said. "This injury has increased my desire to play this game."
He's also mentoring along some rookies who will be counted on this season, including center J.D. Walton and left guard Zane Beadles.
Right now, the offensive line is in a state of flux, especially with All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady on the non-football injury list as he recovers from a knee injury.
Filling in for Clady is Tyler Polumbus, who took over last season for Harris.
BANGED-UP BACKFIELD: With their top two tailbacks injured, the Broncos are getting a good look at Kolby Smith, Lance Ball and Bruce Hall.
"Even though they're not all rookies in terms of years in the league, they behave like rookies at times," coach Josh McDaniels said. "But they're demonstrating toughness, which we like."
McDaniels isn't giving a timetable for the return of Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) or Correll Buckhalter (back).
Until they return, Smith is getting his chance to shine.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Smith, who was awarded to the Broncos off waivers after being cut by Kansas City this summer. "I come from another team, and here I have two great backs in front of me. It's unfortunate that they both went down the same day, but that's what they brought me in for: to help out when it was needed."
EXTRA POINTS: Third-year WR Matthew Willis keeps coming up with big catches in practice - and getting notice because of it, drawing praise from coach Josh McDaniels and his quarterbacks.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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