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First-round picks Moreno, Ayers not signed, miss start of Broncos camp

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- First-round draft picks Knowshon Moreno and Robert Ayers were no-shows Monday when the Denver Broncos gathered for their first training-camp workout.

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Not that they missed all that much -- just some basic drills and a conditioning test that had most of their fellow rookies sweating.

Should Moreno and Ayers' holdouts become more prolonged, though, they could be problematic in the eyes of coach Josh McDaniels. The Broncos are getting the rookies and rehabbers up to speed before the veterans join the team Thursday. The official beginning of training camp is Friday.

That's when the pads go on, and the real work begins.

"Once we install something on Friday, we're not going to install it again on Saturday," McDaniels warned. "As you start putting things in and start putting responsibilities on players, if they miss those meetings, those sessions and those practices, they're going to have some work to catch up. We're no different than any other team. We'd like to have our players here at the beginning, and hopefully they will be."

The agents for Moreno and Ayers didn't return e-mails seeking comment Monday.

Moreno, a running back out of Georgia, and Ayers, a pass rusher from Tennessee, remain the only members of McDaniels' first draft class not to agree to deals in time for the first workout. The other eight draftees were all signed by Sunday night.

That included second-round pick Alphonso Smith, who made it a priority to get a deal done and not miss time. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, worked out a four-year contract.

"It was the only thing I asked Drew to guarantee: I was going to be in camp on time," Smith said.

Smith has some friendly words of advice for Moreno and Ayers: The conditioning test is a doozy. The Broncos implemented an interval run to evaluate the shape of players showing up for camp.

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So far, everyone has passed.

"That was good to see," McDaniels said.

As for his two first-round picks, McDaniels remains optimistic they will be in camp soon. He said it's just a matter of other first-round picks falling in line across the NFL.

The Broncos haven't had a rookie hold out since running back Tatum Bell in 2004.

"Everything is working in a positive direction, and we'll hopefully have them here as soon as we possibly can," McDaniels said. "I know that most of the league is going through the same thing."

The Broncos used their 12th pick in the draft to take Moreno despite bringing in free-agent tailbacks LaMont Jordan and Correll Buckhalter during the offseason to compete with holdovers Ryan Torain and Peyton Hillis.

Ayers was selected at No. 18 to help revamp a dismal defense that allowed 448 points last season. With the Broncos implementing a 3-4 scheme, Ayers will play more of a hybrid role as he alternates between the line and linebacker. He primarily was a defensive end at Tennessee.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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