ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Rookie hazing didn't spare Zane Beadles, whose mop of hair earlier this month was reduced to stubble by the Denver Broncos' veteran players.
"It still shocks me every time I walk in front of the mirror," Beadles said.
Nearly as startling: the second-round draft pick's rise to prominence as a guard this summer.
An offensive tackle at the University of Utah, Beadles has spent the bulk of his first NFL summer learning the finer points of playing in more confined spaces in the pros, though his practice repetitions have increased at tackle since the official end of camp.
"It's been difficult at times," Beadles said, referring to his transition to guard. "There's definitely some differences in all aspects of the game. And it's been an adjustment getting there, but I'm getting more comfortable every single day. I've just got to keep working and I'll get there eventually."
While he is again expected to start Sunday night in Denver's third preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Invesco Field, he might actually do so at tackle. Broncos coaches still are trying to gauge whether Beadles can be a viable option there, too.
Coach Josh McDaniels said Friday that there have been "no decisions made on who's going to be our starting left guard as we start the season," adding that first-year pro Stanley Daniels still has a chance to unseat Beadles.
Daniels will get early snaps at left guard against the Steelers, perhaps with Beadles playing alongside him, given that All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady (knee) isn't ready for game activity just yet. Beadles also will play at left guard Sunday.
"It just means both players are competing and competing hard to be that player," McDaniels said when asked whether his public pronouncement is a referendum on Beadles' play to date. "I think both players understand that they're not where we want them to be -- or probably where they want to be, either -- as far as their consistency and level of play all the time."
Beadles started the first two preseason games and played almost the entire time.
He's attempting to become a franchise rarity: a rookie offensive lineman starting the regular-season opener. Only Claudie Minor (1974), Tom Glassic (1976), Mark Cooper (1983), Russell Freeman (1992) and Ryan Clady (2008) have done so previously for Denver.
Center J.D. Walton, a third-round pick out of Baylor, is virtually assured of joining that group. If Beadles plays alongside him in Jacksonville on Sept. 12, it means the training-camp roommates will become the first pair to start in the offensive trenches for the Broncos in a Week 1.
"We definitely get excited and look forward to going out there and playing," Beadles said. "And it's nice to have someone there who's going though the same things as you that you can study with and bounce things off of. We've had a lot of fun with it so far and we've gone over things each day, 'Let's try to work on this.' It's been great so far."
Notes: Several players sat out Friday's preparations for the third preseason game, including WRs Brandon Stokley (groin) and Demaryius Thomas (foot); S Darcel McBath (forearm); NT Jamal Williams (undisclosed); TEs Richard Quinn (ankle) and Daniel Graham (undisclosed) and DE Ben Garland (Air Force service commitment). ... LB D.J. Williams is expected to make his preseason debut Sunday. He missed most of camp with an undisclosed injury and when he practiced he wore a non-contact jersey. Williams is practicing fully now. ... RBs Correll Buckhalter (neck/back) and LenDale White (leg) are practicing this week, but it's a long shot that either will play Sunday, particularly Buckhalter. The team wants to proceed cautiously with the pair, although McDaniels didn't completely rule them out.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press