Players like tight end Julius Thomas disappear every day from the NFL.

Thomas was drafted in a round — the fourth — where teams take chances on risky talent but with modest investment. He was a player hindered early by stubborn injury. A player with more potential than production through his first two seasons.

Eventually many of those players go away with a "woulda coulda shoulda" story to tell.

Thomas though still was in there well into the second half of the Broncos' preseason opener Thursday night a 10-6 victory over the 49ers at Candlestick Park. No Broncos starter played more.

"It was all right" Thomas said of his preseason performance. "It was fun to be out there again but I've got a long ways to go. I've got to get better out there."
Thomas gets it. He led all Broncos receivers with four catches for 35 yards against the 49ers yet satisfaction will never come during his first real playing opportunity. A high ankle sprain suffered on his first and only catch of his NFL career created concerns about whether Thomas a basketball player in college could handle the physical rigors of football.

But Thomas is as smart as he is determined. He attacked the blocking part of his game. Thomas no longer is limited to the receiving tight end position. He has become a legitimate line-of-scrimmage tight end.

"He continues to make plays in practice and he made some nice catches (against the 49ers)" quarterback Peyton Manning said. "I know he wants to just get more comfortable in the entire offense the run blocking the pass blocking.