How tempo is a massive part of Sean Payton’s practice regimen

Aug 15, 2023, 8:26 PM

Russell Wilson...

(Photo by Andrew Mason /

(Photo by Andrew Mason /

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — It sometimes seems as though Sean Payton’s Broncos are always in a hurry. But the truth is, it only SEEMS that way.

Take the two-minute drill period, for example. At the end of most practices over the last week and a half, the Broncos close by going up-tempo with a specific game situation. Tuesday, the offense was down three points in the final two minutes with one timeout reminding.

Both Russell Wilson and Jarrett Stidham guided the offense into field-goal range on their drives. But what stood out was this: Even after clock-stopping incompletions and plays out of bounds, the offense remained in quick-snap mode.

There is good reason — and it starts with the quarterback.

“I’ll control that. Russell likes to get back on, and I’m good with that,” Payton explained.

“There are times where I have a list. We have a two-minute list, then right beneath it are two-minute huddle calls. Those are plays that are in the game plan that involve who’s out on the field.”

It helps the offense overall. Proficiency at a high tempo means that you ought to fare better when things slow down, too.

And Payton knows when to throttle back the tempo to make a point and get the rep he wants.

“If there’s a play I want to get to, I’ll say, ‘Hey, huddle up,’” he said. “But out here, we just kept the tempo going. We could do either.”


Fullback Michael Burton has a way of surprising the uninitiated onlooker by making a dynamic play with the football, usually in the passing game. Perhaps that’s because of his background as a running back. He played there in high school before converting to fullback in college at Rutgers. But it’s apparent that his ball skills remain quite natural.

He played at 205 pounds in high school. Now he weighs 240 pounds. With a stout, strong build, he carries the mass well.

So, how did Burton become a fullback? He had a choice — but it was a choice of play fullback in college, or don’t play at all. That’s the life of a walk-on.

“It was a pretty easy approach. It was like, ‘Hey, you want to walk on here, you’re gonna be a fullback.’ I said, ‘All right,’” Burton recalled, smiling. “I wanted to play at the highest level. I’m from New Jersey, originally. I wanted to play at Rutgers; that was always my dream. I thought I could play Division I, and there were opportunities to play there, and I took advantage of it.”

Still, his background helps him — not just in his ball skills, but his vision.

“I can kind of see the hole as a runner sees it,” Burton said. “So, I think there’s an advantage to having played running back earlier in my career.”


  • Kicker Brett Maher went 5-of-7 during a team period, including a perfect 4-of-4 from inside 45 yards. He subsequently drilled two field-goal attempts of at least 50 yards to close the move-the-ball period.

  • DE Matt Henningsen had a pass defenses, breaking up a Jarrett Stidham attempt at the line of scrimmage during a team period.

  • DE Jonathan Harris was a standout of 1-on-1 drills, beating both starting guards — Quinn Meinerz and Ben Powers — on consecutive turns, getting Meinerz to the ground on that repetition.

  • QB Russell Wilson closed a red-zone period with back-to-back, goal-to-go touchdown passes, connecting with TE Albert Okwuegbunam and RB Samaje Perine.

  • WR Marquez Callaway had a nice catch in the back of the end zone for Stidham for a touchdown during a second-and-goal red-zone repetition.

  • Edge rusher Aaron Patrick notched what would have been a sack of Stidham on a third-and-goal play.

  • Ben DiNucci’s four red one repetitions were plagued by drops. Tony Jones Jr. and Nick Williams each lost their grip on DiNucci’s passes, with Williams’ drop preventing a touchdown on a second-and-goal rep. DiNucci found J.J. Koski for a score one snap later.


  • Safety Justin Simmons (groin), CB K’Waun Williams (ankle), RT Mike McGlinchey (knee sprain), CB Pat Surtain II, WR Courtland Sutton, WR Brandon Johnson, CB Riley Moss (core-muscle surgery) TE Chris Manhertz and edge rusher Nik Bonitto did not practice.
  • Safeties Caden Sterns and P.J. Locke did not finish practice. Locke exited the field via a cart.


“The perfect fullback play, I think, is a block where you either kick out a defensive end or a linebacker and the running back scores a touchdown. Just doing that dirty work, to me, that’s the most exciting thing.” — Burton


Temperatures rose from 74°F to 87°F during the practice, which took place under fair skies.


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How tempo is a massive part of Sean Payton’s practice regimen