- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 4, 2015

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) - Emmanuel Sanders is so wired to win that he considers his competitive streak both a blessing and a burden.

Sure, it helped him make the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2014, but the Denver Broncos’ speedy wide receiver said he usually can’t dial it down enough to enjoy a friendly video game or a round of poker.

“Sometimes I hate that I’m so competitive,” he said. “But it ended up paying off when it comes to playing a sport.”

Sanders was so eager to impress his new team and build a rapport with Peyton Manning last year that he overdid it, strained a quad and missed much of training camp. Then he went out and had a career year with 101 receptions for 1,404 yards and nine TDs.

Asked about teammate and fellow Pro Bowler Demaryius Thomas’s stated goal of breaking Calvin Johnson’s receiving record of 1,964 yards this season, Sanders smiled and pushed in all his chips.

“I want to be the best wide receiver in the National Football League this year,” Sanders declared. “That’s MY goal.”

It’s clear that Sanders wasn’t in John Elway’s crosshairs when Denver’s general manager, in parting ways with coach John Fox last winter, lamented the Broncos’ failure to go down “kicking and screaming” in the playoffs.

“I think that that’s my mindset, regardless,” Sanders said. “So it’s not one of those things where I have to turn my engine on just to hear that. That’s me. Every play, I want to give it my all, whether it’s blocking, whether it’s catching a pass, whether it’s doing whatever I got to do, I love doing it. I’m competitive as all outdoors.”

Sanders capitalized on Wes Welker’s departure and Thomas’s absence from the offseason program in a contract stalemate to build a better rapport with his quarterback and become more of a locker room leader, tutoring young receivers such as Cody Latimer and Isaiah Burse.

“First off, you wish Demaryius (had been) out there,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “But yeah, he’s got a lot of guys looking at him and he’s a hard worker. He pushes himself, makes a great play at the end of practice, made a great play on the fourth-and-4 drill that we had going. But I’m very impressed with him. He loves to play, has a lot of fun out here. He’s got a lot of confidence, which good players do.”

And a competitive streak to match.

KICKING IT: The Broncos had to carry kickoff specialist Brandon McManus last year when they made the switch to Connor Barth for field goals.

They’re hoping to keep just one punter (Britton Colquitt or Karl Schmitz) and one kicker this season with either of them also handling kickoffs.

Barth, who made 15 of 16 field goals last year but was 0 for 8 on touchbacks before the Broncos brought back McManus to handle kickoffs, said he spent his offseason working with kicking coach Dan Orner in Charlotte, North Carolina, to get more oomph on his kickoffs.

“He’s working at it,” special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said. “He’s going to have to.”

Barth is just 11 of 164 on touchbacks in his career.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL


Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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