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Case Keenum goes into preseason as undisputed starter

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As he lives the life of the no-questions-asked starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos, Case Keenum has discovered that plenty of things that come with the job go beyond the field.

"I don't know what to do with my hands," Keenum said with a laugh as he approached the crowd of cameras, recorders and notepads after the Broncos' first OTA practice.

Keenum was the centerpiece of the Broncos' offseason work when he signed a two-year deal in free agency. And he is the first Broncos quarterback since Peyton Manning was set to enter his final NFL season in 2015 to know he is the starter during every snap of the offseason.

It is also the first time in Keenum's seven-year career that he will work through OTAs, minicamp and training camp with the knowledge that he is the starter. After leading the Minnesota Vikings to an 11-3 record in his starts last season, Keenum aims to lead the Broncos out of the 5-11 hole of 2017.

"It feels good, I like it," Keenum said of knowing he's the starter. "I like competing, knowing my place and knowing my role. There's some comfortableness with that and puts some things at ease and lets you go out there and play, lets you cut it loose. It's nice. ... I'm just trying to earn the right to lead these guys. ... I want to earn that right every day that I'm here, that's how I view the position. ... I want my actions to speak louder than the words."

The Broncos' receivers, including Emmanuel Sanders, have talked of Keenum's accuracy and his ability to control the offense in the team's early workouts. But Tuesday was the first time the Broncos could work offense against defense in drills, and Keenum showed his comfort level with the offense to this point with a pile of completions in the team drills.

"This is Case's first chance to really be the guy," Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. "So, he's excited, I'm excited for him. For his entire career he's been a backup and become the starter because of injury most of the time. This is his first time being the guy. It's good for him. ... It's good to have a guy in place."

Keenum has started 38 games in his career, including the 14 for the Vikings last season. But all of those starts came when another player was injured and Keenum proved he was worthy of being the next man up on the depth chart.

The Broncos signed him because they believed he was ready for more and felt that the QB battles he's endured gave him the mental toughness they wanted at the position. Only the winless Cleveland Browns turned the ball over more than the Broncos did last season -- with 26 of the team's 34 turnovers coming from the Broncos' quarterbacks.

For his part, Keenum said he can be "better" than he was for the Vikings, who advanced to the NFC Championship Game with Keenum behind center.

"Every year's been different for me," Keenum said. "Every situation's been different. ... But I go out here and try to complete every ball.

"Being quarterback doesn't stop when I step off the field; it's going on in [the team's complex], too."