Broncos rookie left tackle getting up to speed

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Ryan Clady has been given a nickname more befitting a tailback than a tackle.

The Denver Broncos' rookie left tackle was dubbed "Sweet Feet" this week at quarterback camp by fellow offensive lineman P.J. Alexander.

The moniker definitely fits. The Boise State product's fancy footwork is one of the reasons the Broncos drafted him with the 12th overall pick in April, and then instantly named him the protector of quarterback Jay Cutler's blind side.

"What does 'Sweet Feet' mean?" Shanahan said when asked about the rookie's new nickname. "Does it mean you've got pretty good feet? He has pretty good feet."

On draft day, Shanahan even praised Clady for his ability to shuffle his feet, which Clady credits to years of playing pickup basketball.

"I haven't been around a tackle that has that type of feet," Shanahan said at the time.

Clady and his "Sweet Feet" have drawn rave reviews so far in camp. Then again, all the rookies have.

"They are all Pro Bowl players now," Shanahan said. "But you never know until you've seen them in pads. I'm pleased with what I've seen."

The Broncos are hoping the 6-foot-6, 317-pound Clady can slide in and take over for the retired Matt Lepsis. Clady is even wearing the same number (78) that Lepsis wore.

"It's been good," Clady said of his first workouts with the team. "I've just been working hard and trying to learn the system and plays. It's a lot more detail than in college. It's a little challenging."

He feels like all eyes have been upon him, everyone watching his every block. Not that he minds the extra attention, especially from his fellow offensive linemen. They've been quick to offer him pointers and advice.

So far, the hardest adjustment for Clady has been the alarm going off at 5 a.m. in order to be at practice on time. He's used to waking up around 9 a.m.

Other than that, Clady said the transition from college to pro hasn't been all that bad.

While Clady was anointed the starter soon after he was picked, the job doesn't automatically belong to him. He will have to fight for it.

"We're going to start him out at No. 1, but he's got to earn that position -- just like everybody else," Shanahan said. "We will evaluate him as time goes on."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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