Playing a mile above sea level can be an advantage for Sean Payton’s Broncos
The Denver Broncos love reminding opposing teams that they play a mile above sea level with signs pointing it out at their aptly-named Empower Field at Mile High Stadium.
Playing at such a high elevation against teams that aren’t conditioned for it can give the Broncos an edge, both physically and mentally. New players — and coaches — who joined Denver this offseason will have to adjust to it this summer. Once they are adjusted, the elevation can serve as an advantage.
“All the coaches when we first arrived went up a set of steps, and for two weeks, all of us were looking at each other like, ‘This is nuts,'” Payton recalled during his media session at rookie minicamp earlier this month. “Pretty soon, it goes away. We talk a lot about hydration and getting acclimated. Generally speaking, I’m not an expert on that.
“When [the Saints] traveled here, we spent a lot of time discussing if we should come two days early, or do you come the normal one day early. The experts would say the only way to get acclimated is to come 10 days early. If not, then come as late as possible and make sure you’re hydrating. We’re making sure they understand that. The benefits of being here on a constant basis is this is your baseline. When you do travel to sea level — so many Olympic athletes train at altitude so that there hopefully is a benefit. We talk about it.”
The Broncos have the second-best home win percentage (.684) in the NFL over the last 50 years, only trailing the Pittsburgh Steelers (.714). Playing a mile above sea level is just one of many factors for that impressive home record, but it shouldn’t be overlooked as a genuine advantage.
Every advantage adds up in the NFL, and being accustomed to playing a mile above sea level will be useful for Denver’s nine home games this fall.
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