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Fox preaches patience, predicts return to glory for Broncos

DENVER -- New Broncos coach John Fox alternated between being a preacher and a prophet in his introduction to the Denver community Tuesday.

Fox preached patience during a keynote address to 1,200 business leaders at the Pepsi Center while promising big things were on the horizon for the downtrodden franchise.

"My job is to win games. That, I will promise you will happen," Fox, in his first public address since he was hired in January, said at the annual breakfast to benefit the Boy Scouts of America. "I can't put a number on it this first season, but I will promise you we'll be in the championship at some level very soon."

Fox said he sees parallels in Denver to his previous gig in Carolina, where he took the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2004, two years after his arrival in Charlotte and his selection of Julius Peppers with the second overall draft pick.

The Broncos own the second overall pick in next month's NFL Draft after a franchise-worst 4-12 season and personnel mistakes that cost Josh McDaniels his job as coach and de facto general manager.

The Broncos brought back John Elway as their chief of football operations, and Elway hired Fox as his coach and empowered general manager Brian Xanders two months ago in a front-office overhaul.

"I'm real excited. It seems like the stars have aligned," Fox said. "In Carolina when I first went in 2002, they were 1-15. ... That team was in disarray. We had the second pick in the draft, much like we do here in Denver."

He selected Peppers, a two-sport standout from North Carolina, and the Panthers were on their way back to respectability.

"That's our goal, to repeat and (get) a player like him in this draft," Fox said. "I think we're set up very well to have some success."

Right after the breakfast, Fox, Elway and Xanders jetted off to attend pro timing days this week across the South, where they planned to meet with defensive linemen Nick Fairley of Auburn and Marcell Dareus of Alabama and Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller.

Another potential No. 2 pick is LSU cornerback and Jim Thorpe Award winner Patrick Peterson.

"The bottom line is, especially with where we pick, we can't miss," Elway said before the breakfast. "So, (it's) a chance to get around them and meet them a little bit. It's not so much the workout, because we saw them work out at the combine, but it's really about getting to spend some time with them."

Defense is Denver's top priority, and the Broncos have holes in their front line after the release last week of veteran linemen Justin Bannan and Jamal Williams in cost-cutting moves that were quickly followed by the re-signing of defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson to a two-year deal.

"We would really have been worried if we hadn't got Vickerson signed, but hopefully we still get a chance to talk to Jamal and Bannan down the way," Elway said. "But we have to see how this whole thing unravels. We're still waiting in limbo and hopefully we'll get a (new labor) deal this Friday."

Vickerson had 42 tackles and two sacks last season.

"Well, he was probably the youngest one of the group and when you look at our defense, and you look at the age on that side, we've got to get younger," Elway said. "We had a lot of guys that were getting up there in age. So, Kevin was the youngest of those guys. (Marcus) Thomas has already decided that he's going to test the free-agent market."

Vickerson is coming off his best pro season and projects well in the 4-3 defensive scheme the Broncos are going back to after employing a 3-4 look the last two years.

"I don't know if he's turned the corner, but he's definitely on the curve and is a guy that we think can definitely help us," Fox said. "He's got a lot of the tools physically that we're looking for."

Their youth movement notwithstanding, the Broncos' biggest offseason move was re-signing Champ Bailey to a four-year, $43 million extension. He turns 33 this summer but is still an elite cornerback and locker-room leader who should make Denver's defensive refurbishing easier.

The old regime pulled an extension offer from the table in October, three months before Elway took over.

"So, I said, 'Let's put it back on the table and see what the reaction is,'" Elway said.

The Broncos also released nine-year pro Daniel Graham last week to save a $1 million roster bonus, leaving tight end as another position high on the team's to-do list.

"There's a lot of holes and a lot of things that we have to do," Elway said. "So, hopefully we can do the best we can in plugging the holes this year. But it's going to take some time. And that's why we've got to be good in the draft and we've got to get something done in the free-agent market."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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