DENVER (July 6, 2006) -- Mike Shanahan knows just the place receiver Ashley Lelie could compete for the No. 1 job he covets so much that he's boycotting the Broncos' minicamp: Denver.
"If you want to compete to be the No. 1 guy, why not be here? Why not be here in camp?" Shanahan said after the Broncos began their three-day practice session July 6. "If you're afraid of competing against a No. 1 guy who's 35 years old (in Rod Smith )?
"I don't think you're going to find a better scenario than what he has here."
Lelie wants to be a featured pass-catcher in somebody's offense and is convinced he'll never get that opportunity in Denver. He wasn't pleased with the Broncos' interest in Terrell Owens over the winter and declined to attend the club's offseason conditioning program, forgoing a $100,000 contract incentive to work out instead in Tempe, Ariz.
Ironically, during the winter and spring he worked out with former Pro Bowl receiver Javon Walker, who joined the Broncos in a draft-day trade from Green Bay. Walker, who missed most of last season with a torn knee ligament, has a lucrative new contract that will kick in next March if his comeback goes well in 2006.
Lelie, who is entering the final season of the rookie contract he signed as the 19th overall pick in 2002, had 42 catches for 770 yards and one TD last year, numbers that were down from 2004, when he racked up 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns on 54 receptions.
"We drafted him as a No. 1 draft choice. We would love him to be the No. 1 wide receiver. That's why we drafted him No. 1. He's done some good things for us. I think there's still a big upside for him. I just think he's making a bad decision," Shanahan said.
"It would be different if people were beating down the walls to get him, but they're not," Shanahan said. "Why not come in here and try to do what you can do and make a name for yourself at a place that drafted you No. 1?"
Lelie and his agent, Peter Schaffer, say there's nothing new in their stance: Lelie wants a trade.
Smith said he wants Lelie to return to Denver: "I can't tell anybody else how to go and handle their business. I just want to see him in the football camp. I would rather see him on a football field with us."
Shanahan isn't ready to give up on Lelie.
"He'd still have an opportunity here if he decided to come back," Shanahan said. "I'm not saying I wouldn't be a little tougher on him -- I'm just joking."
But he's serious about fining him.
Lelie could be out as much as $12,000 for missing the three days of workouts. Once training camp starts later this month, he could be fined $6,000 for each day he stays away.
"I really haven't been reaching out, to be honest with you. Because he won't return my phone calls," Shanahan said.
With Lelie absent and Walker limited, several young receivers have gotten plenty of chances to impress the coaches during the offseason workouts, and third-year pro Darius Watts has taken advantage.
Walker ran routes the first day of workouts, but won't face defensive backs until training camp.
"He looks like he's in pretty good shape," Shanahan said. "He's making some strides. He did most of the drill work. We didn't do any team work with him. I think he could have. But we have a plan over the next three weeks to keep working him like he's working now and hopefully, by the first day of camp, he's ready to go full speed."