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Updated: 20 min 25 sec ago

Former Broncos QB Mark Sanchez retires from NFL to join ABC/ESPN, report says

30 min 9 sec ago

Mark Sanchez is hanging up his cleats and heading to the broadcast booth.

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The former Broncos quarterback is retiring from the NFL to join ABC/ESPN as a college football analyst, according to the New York Post.

Sanchez, 32, was drafted with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft by the New York Jets. He spent 10 seasons in the league, completing 56.6% of his passes for 15,357 yards, 86 touchdowns and 89 interceptions in 79 games (73 starts). In 2012, he committed the infamous “Butt Fumble” after running into the posterior of his own right guard Brandon Moore against the Patriots.

He was acquired by the Broncos in 2016 from the Eagles for a conditional 2017 seventh-round draft pick. Denver released him in the final waive of roster cuts prior to the 2016 regular season.

Crafty Colorado bear caught on video stealing an entire dumpster

38 min 39 sec ago

A mischievous bear attempted to dumpster dive in Lyons, but was thwarted by the bear-proof container.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Northeast Region shared video on Twitter on Tuesday morning that shows a bear breaking through a fence at a property in Lyons and sniffing around the dumpster. The bear then stands on its hind legs and drags the dumpster out onto the street.

Senate confirms Army veteran Mark Esper secretary of defense

41 min 5 sec ago

WASHINGTON — The Senate has confirmed Army veteran and former defense industry lobbyist Mark Esper as secretary of defense.

Esper’s confirmation ends a stretch of seven months the Pentagon didn’t have a permanent leader.

RELATED: Amazon, Microsoft wage war over the Pentagon’s “war cloud”

Esper won Senate confirmation on Tuesday by a vote of 90-8 and is to be sworn in by day’s end.

The Pentagon had been without a permanent boss since Jim Mattis stepped down last New Year’s Eve. Deputy Secretary Patrick Shanahan became the acting secretary, but after six months as the fill-in the former Boeing executive abruptly quit.

Esper then became the acting secretary, but once he was nominated last week he had to step aside until a Senate vote.

For the past week the Pentagon has been run by yet another fill-in, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer.

Man arrested in Mexico for 2015 assault on Colorado police officer

1 hour 13 min ago

SHERIDAN — A Colorado man has been arrested in Mexico for an assault on a police officer during a traffic stop.

Ismael Rayos

Sheridan police say 28-year-old Ismael Rayos of Lakewood was deported from Mexico and faces several charges for trying to run over the officer. He is being held in Arizona and will eventually be moved to the Arapahoe County jail in Centennial.

RELATED: Police seek suspect who dragged Sheridan officer, got caught on video

Police say the officer stopped Rayos’ car on April 26, 2015 in Sheridan. Officers were talking with him when he jumped into the car and began driving away. One officer was in the way and was thrown to the ground.

The car was found after it crashed into a building in Denver. A handgun was found inside.

It’s not clear if Rayos has an attorney who could comment on his behalf.

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Shaun White pushes forward on Olympic skateboarding track

1 hour 35 min ago

Shaun White is pressing forward with plans to shoot for the Summer Olympics in skateboarding.

White said Tuesday on NBC’s “Today” show that he’ll compete at world championships in September “and see what happens” before deciding whether to try to earn a spot on the U.S. team for skateboarding’s Olympic debut next summer in Tokyo.

The three-time Olympic snowboarding champion has won five of his 23 X Games medals on the summer side in skateboarding.

RELATED: Boulder’s Nell Rojas emerges as sudden Olympic marathon hopeful

But when snowboarding became an Olympic sport, and with no similar option on the Summer Games side, White focused on the Winter Games.

He announced last summer that skateboarding was in his plans but only competed in one contest last year.

Street and park skateboarding are on the 2020 program, neither of which are considered White’s specialty.

He’s expected to focus on the park version, which mixes vertical jumps like those seen on the halfpipe with street features like rails and stairs.

How an emergency location device saved a hiker and why you should use one, too

2 hours 6 min ago

PITKIN COUNTY — Authorities are reminding avid hikers about the importance of emergency location devices after an injured man was rescued on Cathedral Peak this past weekend.

Mountain Rescue Aspen was notified by an emergency SPOT device near Cathedral Peak at about 7:45 a.m. on Sunday. The St. Anthony’s Flight for Life helicopter based in Frisco — about 55 miles away, as the crow flies — flew over the area and located two people around 13,200 feet.

RELATED: 10 essentials every hiker should carry in their backpack

One of them, a 47-year-old man, injured his right ankle after he had slid and tumbled 150 feet down a snowfield. He also had some bruising and abrasions, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.

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The sheriff’s office said there have been several recent rescue missions that were initiated after a hiker used an emergency location device. While some devices only transmit a location, newer technology allows for two-way communication. Authorities say the latter is much better because it also allows the user to get confirmation when authorities receive their distress signal. The user can also communicate the nature of their emergency so rescue personnel can prepare for the situation appropriately, the sheriff’s office said.

Read more about the rescue on Denver7.

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Are you a Colorado farmer looking to launch a goat yoga business? CSU’s new agritourism program can teach you how.

2 hours 8 min ago

Farmers and agricultural aficionados looking for a new way to capitalize on their crops and land can now turn to a first-of-its-kind graduate program at Colorado State University that promises to teach the skills needed to dive into agritourism.

In Colorado, 1,056 farms already have an agritourism venture, up from 864 farms in 2012, according to a 2019 Colorado Department of Agriculture presentation.

“Tourism is a strong and growing industry, particularly in Colorado,” said Dawn Thilmany, a professor at CSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences who has managed research and outreach in agritourism — before it was known by that name — for more than a decade.

“Yet, we have too few educational and professional development opportunities for those who want to thoughtfully and authentically integrate agritourism into their farm or community’s development plans. We believe these needs are even more acute in rural areas struggling to find an economic driver well suited to the 21st century.”

The average reported income from adding agritourism for family farms in Colorado is $36,000 per year, said Kelli Hepler, Delta County tourism coordinator.

RELATED: Want to pet a goat? Head to a Colorado library near you.

Coloradans interested in getting into agritourism — which can range from starting a goat yoga business to opening a pumpkin patch or farm-to-table eatery — can take the six-course program online through CSU. The program benefits both established professionals and those new to the field and promises “practical, managerial and theoretical skills needed” for the creation and management of an agritourism operation.

Rebecca Hill, CSU research scientist in the Department of Agriculture & Resource Economics, said the program isn’t just for experienced farmers. Farmers’ kids who have left the homestead and want to come back are signing up for the certificate to explore new forms of revenue, and people with no ag background who are interested in the tourism industry are giving it a look, too.

“It’s seasonal things like corn mazes, pumpkin patches, weddings, dude ranches, wineries, farmers interested in wanting people to hunt on their farms,” Hill said. “There’s a large gamut of what people are doing, but they’re trying to figure out how to make money off this.”

The program covers areas like spatial and financial analysis, lodging operations, marketing, operating culinary tourism venues and finding the latest trends in the industry. The coursework has input from the tourism industry and the agricultural community, CSU said.

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“Colorado is at the intersection of how tourism and agriculture can be blended to attract those interested in reconnecting with their food, Western heritage or our abundant natural resources,” Hill said in a CSU news release. “This certificate highlights best practices for people to do so effectively.”

Hepler noted that agritourism is a solution for struggling farmers who can’t afford to keep working their land as it engages the public to interact with their local farms.

The 12-credit program is $749 a credit. To apply online, participants need a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution, two letters of recommendation and an official transcript. Students can start the program in the fall or the spring. The deadline for the fall semester is Aug. 5. and the spring semester is Dec.1

High-elevation tornado likely touched down in Colorado on Monday

2 hours 16 min ago

Yes, tornadoes can take place in high-elevation areas, and Monday likely provided an example of one.

A tornado-warned thunderstorm moved through Custer County west of Pueblo on Monday afternoon, producing several funnel clouds and a likely tornado. While as of early Tuesday no tornado was confirmed to have touched down by the National Weather Service (NWS), visuals appeared to confirm that a tornado took place near Westcliffe on Monday afternoon.

COLORADO

CSU football picked to finish near bottom of its division in Mountain West

2 hours 33 min ago

Expect more of the same in the Mountain West Conference.

That was the message from the Group of Five football conference’s annual media poll released Tuesday morning at MWC media days in Henderson, Nevada.

Boise State and Fresno State were picked to win their divisions in the poll — the same two programs that won the Mountain and West divisions, respectively, in 2018 and ’17.

The pollsters weren’t quite as bullish on Colorado’s two MWC representatives, with Air Force picked to finish third in the Mountain and Colorado State fifth. Wyoming was picked fourth in the Mountain.

The Rams are coming off their first losing season in six years, having finished 3-9 and fifth in the Mountain, while Air Force went 5-7 and missed out on bowl season for the second consecutive year.

Boise State has been predicted to win its division each of the past six seasons and has done so the past three years. The Broncos received 15 of the 21 first-place votes for the Mountain, while Utah State received five.

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Fresno State is an even bigger favorite in the West, with the Bulldogs receiving 17 first-place votes. San Diego State had three first-place votes and Hawaii one.

The two divisional winners meet in the conference championship game Dec. 7, 2019 at the home of the divisional champion with the highest winning percentage in conference.

Mountain Division Rank Team (first-place) Points 1 Boise State (15) 120 2 Utah State (6) 108 3 Air Force 73 4 Wyoming 66 5 Colorado State 52 6 New Mexico 22 West Division Rank Team (first-place) Points 1 Fresno State (17) 122 2 San Diego State (3) 106 3 Nevada 74 4 Hawai’i (1) 67 5 UNLV 51 6 San Jose State 21 MWC preseason all-conference footballl team Offense QB Jordan Love** Jr. Utah State WR John Hightower Sr. Boise State WR Cedric Byrd II Sr. Hawai’i RB Juwan Washington Sr. San Diego State RB Toa Taua So. Nevada OL Ezra Cleveland* Jr. Boise State OL John Molchon* Sr. Boise State OL Jake Nelson Sr. Nevada OL Keith Ismael* Jr. San Diego State OL Justin Polu Sr. UNLV TE Jared Rice** Sr. Fresno State Defense DL Jordan Jackson** Jr. Air Force DL David Moa Sr. Boise State DL Curtis Weaver* Jr. Boise State DL Tipa Galeai** Sr. Utah State LB Mykal Walker* Sr. Fresno State LB Kyahva Tezino* Sr. San Diego State LB David Woodward ** Jr. Utah State DB Jeremy Fejedelem Sr. Air Force DB Juju Hughes** Sr. Fresno State DB Tariq Thompson** Jr. San Diego State DB DJ Williams So. Utah State Specialists P Ryan Stonehouse* Jr. Colorado State PK Cooper Rothe* Sr. Wyoming KR/PR Savon Scarver* Jr. Utah State

* – member of the 2018 All-Mountain West first team
** – member of the 2018 All-Mountain West second team

Offensive Player of the Year: Jordan Love, Jr., QB, Utah State

Defensive Player of the Year: Curtis Weaver, Jr., DL, Boise State

Special Teams Player of the Year: Cooper Rothe, Sr., PK, Wyoming

Trump administration moves to end food stamps for 3 million people

2 hours 34 min ago

By Mike Dorning, The Washington Post

The Trump administration is moving to end food stamp benefits for 3 million people with proposed new regulations curtailing the leeway of states to automatically enroll residents who receive welfare benefits.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said state governments “have misused this flexibility.”

“We are changing the rules, preventing abuse of a critical safety net system, so those who need food assistance the most are the only ones who receive it,” he added.

Conservatives have long sought cuts in the federal food assistance program for the poor and disabled. House Republicans tried to impose similar restrictions on the food stamp program last year when Congress renewed it but were rebuffed in the Senate.

The proposed change in rules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — often called by its former name, food stamps — would deliver on the goal as the administration has agreed to a deal to lift caps on federal spending.

Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the Agriculture Department’s action “is yet another attempt by this administration to circumvent Congress and make harmful changes to nutrition assistance that have been repeatedly rejected on a bipartisan basis.”

“This rule would take food away from families, prevent children from getting school meals, and make it harder for states to administer food assistance,” the Michigan senator added.

The Trump administration rule would rein in states’ ability to enroll recipients earning more than 130% of the federal poverty guidelines — in most cases capping eligibility to an annual income of $32,640 for a family of four.

Forty states and the District of Columbia currently use alternative eligibility criteria that allow participants in some federally funded welfare programs to automatically receive food stamps as long as their income is less than double the poverty level.

Brandon Lipps, an acting deputy undersecretary in the Agriculture Department, told reporters in a conference call previewing the regulatory changes that in some cases states enroll residents for food stamps even though they are receiving federal welfare benefits of minimal value — including brochures.

The proposed regulations, to be released Tuesday, would only allow automatic enrollment of people who receive welfare benefits worth at least $50 a month on an ongoing basis for at least six months. Other than cash, the only welfare benefits that would qualify are subsidized employment, work supports such as transportation, and child care, Lipps said.

The proposed restrictions would eliminate food stamps for 3 million people at an average annual savings of $2.5 billion, Lipps said. A final regulation will be issued after a 60-day public comment period.

As of April, 36 million Americans received food stamps, with an average monthly benefit of $121 per person, according to the Department of Agriculture. Enrollment has declined as the economy has improved and was down 2.5 million from a year earlier.

The federal government pays the cost of food stamp benefits. But states administer the program and determine eligibility of applicants, with the state and federal government splitting administrative costs.

Cutting back automatic enrollment would have a substantial effect, mostly hitting recipients who receive lower monthly benefits and disproportionately effecting working families with children trying to climb out of poverty, Elaine Waxman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute said in testimony last month to a House Agriculture subcommittee.

“We particularly worry about food-insecure households with kids and adolescents,” Waxman said. “Food-insecure children have higher rates of fair and poor health, have higher rates of hospitalization, increased risk of asthma, and delays in cognitive developments.”

Five things to know about Robert Mueller’s testimony

2 hours 34 min ago

WASHINGTON – Former special counsel Robert Mueller is scheduled to testify publicly before two separate congressional panels Wednesday, when he will publicly address questions for the first time about his investigation of President Donald Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Here are five things to know:

1) What time is the hearing?

Mueller will first appear before the House Judiciary Committee starting at 8:30 a.m. Because of the committee’s size, that hearing is expected to last about three hours. He will then appear before the House Intelligence Committee at noon, in a hearing that is expected to last about two hours.

Both hearings are public and will be streamed on The Washington Post’s homepage. Live coverage begins Wednesday at 8 a.m.

2) Will Mueller say anything new?

Mueller is going to try not to make any news, and he will be a reluctant witness, at best. At a May news conference to announce that the special counsel’s office was closing, Mueller said that he hoped his public remarks then would be his last and that – if pressed to testify – he would not stray beyond his report.

“We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself,” he said.

Jim Popkin, a spokesman for Mueller, reiterated Monday that Mueller intends to limit his testimony to what is in his report. He said Mueller will submit the publicly released version of the document as his official statement for the record, though he will also read a separate opening statement. The Justice Department told Mueller in a letter that his testimony “must remain within the boundaries of your public report” and noted that some aspects of his work were covered by executive privilege.

“You can expect him to stick pretty close to the four walls of the report come Wednesday,” Popkin said.

A former FBI director, Mueller has loads of experience testifying before Congress. Those who know him say he generally did not like the exercise, though he prepared vigorously and was skilled at deflecting lawmakers’ questions.

The hearing Wednesday will probably be far more contentious, though, than any he has faced previously. Popkin said Mueller and a small group of former team members have been preparing in unused office space at the WilmerHale law firm, which Mueller left to work as special counsel.

3) What are Democrats most likely to ask about?

Democrats have signaled that they intend to focus much of their questioning on the episodes that Mueller outlined in his report in which Trump sought to impede the investigation. While the 448-page report lays them out in great detail, some Democrats believe that the American public hasn’t yet been exposed to them, and having a respected former prosecutor rehash them on national TV is worthwhile in its own right.

Mueller almost certainly will not answer Democrats’ biggest question: Does he believe there is enough evidence to bring an obstruction-of-justice case against Trump, were he not president? That is because Mueller’s team decided it could not make a determination on that topic even privately, because of Justice Department policy preventing the indictment of a sitting president, combined with concerns about the unfairness of making an allegation against someone who would not have an opportunity to defend himself at a trial.

If Mueller were to publicly opine now that enough evidence exists to charge Trump, he would be contradicting the logic in his own report.

4) What are Republicans most likely to ask about?

Trump’s conservative allies in Congress are likely to question the former special counsel about what they perceive as bias on his team. They are likely to refer repeatedly to anti-Trump text messages exchanged by two FBI officials who worked for Mueller: agent Peter Strzok and lawyer Lisa Page.

Mueller removed Strzok from the case when he was alerted to the messages, and Page already had left his team. Both Page and Strzok have insisted that their private views did not influence their work. But Trump has repeatedly used them to attack Mueller’s probe, including as recently as Monday.

Republicans also are likely to press Mueller on the origins of the probe before his appointment and the propriety of investigative tactics the FBI used in dealing with the Trump campaign. If Mueller does not stray from his report, it is possible he will merely turn away such inquiries. But it is also possible that he will feel compelled to defend his team or the FBI, particularly in light of the president’s repeated claim that his campaign was inappropriately spied on.

5) Where will lawmakers turn their attention when they are done with Mueller?

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Mueller is a pivotal witness in the Judiciary and Intelligence committees’ ongoing investigations of the Trump administration and Russian interference in the 2016 election, but he is hardly the only one. When he is finished, lawmakers might intensify their efforts to speak with members of his team.

They also might refocus on those who were witnesses for Mueller and can describe firsthand possible obstructive conduct by the president. Trump so far has largely stymied House Democrats on that front, citing executive privilege and other concerns to block witnesses from testifying.

For example, lawmakers have been unable to get former White House counsel Donald McGahn to speak with them, and former White House communications adviser Hope Hicks has repeatedly declined to discuss her time inside the administration, though she did talk about her time on the campaign.

Boris Johnson wins race to become UK’s next prime minister

4 hours 35 min ago

LONDON — Brexit hardliner Boris Johnson won the contest to lead Britain’s governing Conservative Party on Tuesday and will become the country’s next prime minister, tasked with fulfilling his promise to lead the U.K. out of the European Union.

Johnson resoundingly defeated rival Jeremy Hunt, winning two thirds of the votes in a ballot of about 160,000 Conservative members. He will be installed as prime minister in a formal handover from Theresa May on Wednesday.

In a brief speech Tuesday meant to rally the party faithful, Johnson radiated optimism, and pledged to deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat the Labour opposition.

“I think we know that we can do it and that the people of this country are trusting in us to do it and we know that we will do it,” he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted his congratulations and said Johnson will be “great.”

Trump has been very critical of May’s inability to achieve a Brexit deal and has said Johnson will do a better job.

Johnson, a former London mayor, has wooed Conservatives by promising to succeed where May failed and lead the U.K. out of the European Union on the scheduled date of Oct. 31 — with or without a divorce deal.

Several Conservative ministers have already announced they will resign to fight any push for a “no-deal” Brexit, an outcome economists warn would disrupt trade and plunge the U.K. into recession. Fears that Britain is inching closer to a “no-deal” Brexit weighed on the pound once again Tuesday. The currency was down another 0.3 percent at $1.2441 and near two-year lows.

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May stepped down after Britain’s Parliament repeatedly rejected the withdrawal agreement she struck with the 28-nation bloc. Johnson insists he can get the EU to renegotiate — something the bloc insists it will not do.

If not, he says Britain must leave the EU on Halloween, “come what may.”

Johnson will preside over a House of Commons in which most members oppose leaving the EU without a deal, and where the Conservative Party lacks an overall majority.

After Johnson’s win, Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, said he looked forward “to working constructively” with the new Conservative leader.

Denver weather: Hot with isolated afternoon rain, small hail and thunderstorms

5 hours 9 min ago

Denver temperatures are rising again with highs expected to reach the upper 80s Tuesday before isolated showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon could bring hail and heavy rain.

The high temperature Tuesday is expected to be around 90 degrees in downtown Denver under mostly sunny skis, said the National Weather Service in Boulder.

There’s a 20 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms after 2 p.m. Afternoon winds out of the northeast could gust up to 20 mph, the NWS said.

Scattered PM storms, mainly in the mountains, foothills, & Palmer Divide. Brief heavy rain still possible. Warmer temps today through Wednesday. #COwx pic.twitter.com/2UyVjoKXdg

— NWS Boulder (@NWSBoulder) July 23, 2019

Through the middle of the week there is an increasing chance of storms in the Denver area as high temperatures rise each day to the upper 80s or lower 90s, forecasters said.

On Wednesday, there is a 30 percent chance for afternoon rain and thunderstorms. There’s a better chance for rain in the evening. The high temperature is expected to be around 92 degrees, the NWS said.

Rain showers and thunderstorms are likely on Thursday, when the high temperature will be about 89 degrees. The chance for precipitation is 60 percent, the NWS said.

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Early Friday, sunshine will prevail. There’s a 40 percent chance for rain and thunder in the afternoon.

The pattern of afternoon rain and thunderstorms will continue through the weekend, when temperatures will peak at about 92 degrees on Saturday and 87 degrees on Sunday.

How Elijah Wilkinson became the early surprise of Broncos training camp

5 hours 34 min ago

Five days of Broncos training camp are in the books, setting the table for one big question: Are there any standout players who have surprised coaches?

Let offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello take it from here: “I’ll say Elijah Wilkinson.”

Not very familiar? Don’t fret. The Broncos’ third-year offensive lineman isn’t a household name — yet.

“He’s very athletic and a great scheme fit,” Scangarello said. “I just like the way he works out here. I think (offensive line coach) Mike Munchak has done a great job honing out his skill-set and really helping him develop. … He is a guy that we are very happy with up to this point.”

Wilkinson, 24, is only two years removed from first joining the Broncos’ practice squad. You might assume the undrafted offensive lineman from UMass would use those words as further fuel to secure a starting job in 2019.

You would also be wrong.

“Someone sent it to me and I read (Scangarello’s quote),” Wilkinson said Monday, one practice after the coach sang his praises, “but I don’t even pay attention to that stuff.”

Wilkinson’s rise to training camp surprise was not manifested in positive encouragement, but instead with a relentless work ethic and good timing. He entered the league in 2017 with 33 college starts at right tackle. After six weeks on Denver’s practice squad, Wilkinson got promoted the active roster. He tallied 35 snaps over the next nine games, but only twice at offensive tackle and the rest on special teams. Then Wilkinson began his second season once again buried on the depth chart.

His big break in 2018, unfortunately, came at the expense of a teammate when right guard Ron Leary went down with a torn Achilles in a Week 6 loss to the Rams. So Wilkinson swapped positions — tackle to guard — and thrived. He started the final seven games of the season and was not penalized once over 520 offensive snaps. He allowed 18.5 “disruptions” (combined sacks/hits/pressures), which tied for fifth-most among Broncos, per Denver Post game charting. Wilkinson was also responsible for 5.5 “bad run plays” in which the Broncos gained 3-or-fewer yards, not including short-yardage situations.

Wilkinson said the experience gave him “a little bit of swagger.” Although nothing was guaranteed in 2019 — especially after Denver selected Kansas State offensive lineman Dalton Risner with the No. 41 overall pick (second round) in the NFL draft.

“They drafted Risner and everybody else, and that’s none of my business, I just come into work every single day and do the best I can,” Wilkinson said. “I didn’t come with a goal for anything else but to make sure I don’t have any assignment errors and give it my all.”

Slimming down was among Wilkinson’s first steps toward improvement in Year 3. He is currently listed on the depth chart at 6-foot-6 and 329 pounds, but Wilkinson said he is now closer to 318. Munchak, in his first season coaching Broncos offensive lineman, has employed Wilkinson as the second-team left tackle almost exclusively through five training camp practices. And teammates have taken notice of his vast growth.

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“Eli is really good,” defensive end Adam Gotsis said. “He’s got heavy hands, good feet and if he gets those paws on you he’s going to lock you down. It’s been awesome to watch him grow from when he came in as a rookie as well. He’s just gotten better and better. … It’s exciting to see Eli and what he’s going to do this year.”

Two main factors are likely to contribute to Wilkinson’s impact this season. An ability to play guard or tackle likely gives Wilkinson first dibs at replacing one of several Broncos offensive linemen should they fall to injury. The clock is also ticking on left tackle Garett Bolles to meet first-round expectations and eliminate costly mistakes. Each scenario could provide Wilkinson an even greater role in 2019.

Scangarello’s public applause proves Wilkinson is ready to make it happen — even as Wilkinson tries blocks it out.

“It doesn’t matter what the depth chart says,” Wilkinson said. “I’ve been lower than low not getting any reps on the depth chart. I know exactly how it is. I’m coming in to work my butt off and let the chips fall where they may.”

Broncos’ value climbs, but franchise drops in Forbes’ most valuable sports teams list

5 hours 34 min ago

The Broncos’ value climbed slightly, but the team dropped a few spots in Forbes’ annual world’s 50 most valuable sports teams, which was revealed on Monday.

The franchise’s value grew 2% in 2019, chiming in at $2.69 billion, ranking at No. 26 on the list — down from No. 23 in 2018. No other Colorado team made the list.

Stan Kroenke — whose wife Ann Walton Kroenke owns the Nuggets and Avalanche — made the list twice with the Los Angeles Rams (tied for 12th at $3.2 billion) and Arsenal (42nd at $2.27 billion).

The Dallas Cowboys topped the list for the fourth consecutive year, becoming the first franchise to reach $5 billion in value. The Yankees were second ($4.6 billion), followed by Real Madrid ($.24 billion) and Barcelona ($4.02 billion).

The NFL had the most number of franchises in the list with 26, followed by MLB (9), soccer (8) and NBA (7).

Joe Nguyen, The Denver Post

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MLB: Rockies-Nationals, ppd

Must-Read Mike Stobe, Getty ImagesDavid Dahl (26) of the Colorado Rockies hits a two-run single in the third inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on July 21, 2019 in New York City. Rockies’ David Dahl makes strides, but he’s still a work in progress

David Dahl is an outfielder with tantalizing talent and still untapped potential. In manager Bud Black’s opinion, Dahl has made big strides this season, perhaps more than any other Rockies position player. That’s saying a lot. Read more…

Joe Amon, The Denver PostElijah Wilkinson (68) of the Denver Broncos during morning warm ups at UCHealth Training Center on July 22, 2019 in Englewood. How Elijah Wilkinson became the early surprise of Broncos training camp

Five days of Broncos training camp are in the books, setting the table for one big question: Are there any standout players who have surprised coaches? Let offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello take it from here: “I’ll say Elijah Wilkinson.” Read more…

Joe Amon, The Denver PostHead coach Vic Fangio of the Denver Broncos during warmups at UCHealth Training Center on July 22, 2019 in Englewood. Broncos training camp rewind, Day 5: Defense rules fifth practice

Story Time With Uncle Vic (Practice 5 edition): Fangio was asked about building a culture. “Culture to me is getting a lot of good players in here, getting a good bunch of coaches, doing a good job coaching, then you win games and everybody is happy and all of a sudden, you have a good culture. We’re going to work hard and play smart and try to be on top of things mentally.” Read more…

Quick Hits

+ CU Buffs football position preview: Team loaded with talent at receiver.

+ Rockies-Nationals game postponed because of threat of heavy rain.

+ Broncos training camp 2019: Best photos from the first week of open practice.

+ White Sox host 1st MLB game with foul pole-to-pole netting.

+ UFC’s Jon Jones disputes strip club waitress’ assault claim.

Post Mailbag forms

+ Broncos Mailbag: Have a question about the team? Ask Ryan O’Halloran here.

+ Nuggets Mailbag: Have a question about the team? Ask Mike Singer here.

+ Avs Mailbag: Have a question about the team? Ask Mike Chambers here.

+ Rockies Mailbag: Have a question about the team? Ask Patrick Saunders here.

By The Numbers $264 million

How much Vail Resorts paid to acquire 17 ski areas owned by Peak Resorts. Read more…

Parting Shot Winslow Townson, The Associated PressColorado Rockies starting pitcher Kyle Freeland heads back to the mound after giving up a home run during the third inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox Tuesday, May 14, 2019, at Fenway Park in Boston. Newman vs Kiz: What’s the No. 1 reason for the Rockies’ rough season?

The analytical gurus at Fangraphs now give Colorado less than a 5 percent chance of making the playoffs. Put on your forensic hat. What’s the primary factor that killed a team that had such big hopes in April? Read more…

Get in Touch

If you see something that’s cause for question or have a comment, thought or suggestion, email me at dboniface@denverpost.com or tweet me @danielboniface.

Reader pick: “Hunger,” by Roxane Gay is devastating

5 hours 34 min ago

There is something both devastating and cautiously transformative in the memoir “Hunger,” by Roxane Gay, and I write these words, I want to tread carefully, because there is such vulnerability in these pages.

Hunger by Roxane Gay (Harper Perennial)

Gay takes such risks revealing all the trauma, shame, and struggle that she has faced, for as a culture, we do not treat well people who are fat. (And I’ll use her language here since she boldly claims it, and she’s right: The word itself can be an accurate descriptor and doesn’t have to be a weapon used against people who are fat.)

One of the most striking parts of this memoir is how it roots Gay’s struggle with her “unruly body” in the gang rape of her when she was 12. In direct and unflinching language, she tells us what happened and its impact on her — how she ate and gained weight to create a protective barrier against future violations.

That is one of the more devastating parts of her story, for it challenges us to see larger connections between gender-based violence, the resulting trauma, and bodies that don’t adhere to certain notions of beauty.

What’s even harder at times is to accompany her as she attempts to reclaim a sense of agency and authority over her body over the next three decades in such a way that she can feel healthy and good in it, without succumbing to all the dehumanizing expectations for fat bodies, especially those that are also female, queer and black.

Ultimately, she comes to a place where it begins to be possible to live in her body differently, but it’s a tentative accomplishment, one that we leave these pages respecting for its hard-won achievement.

Tips on complementing summer flavors in the kitchen

5 hours 34 min ago

There are a lot of weddings going on. In the kitchen, too.

This is the time of the year when a squeeze of lime or lemon just seems perfect with that wedge of watermelon. Or a slather of mayonnaise or sweet cream butter simply must be the coat for that cob of corn.

Sure, the season itself is a sort of Tinder app for food pairings because so many of them pop ‘round just now. Slices of chin-dripping juicy tomato? Swipe right on the fresh basil.

But reasons other than seasonality underlie many matches of a particular food with its perfect flavor or ingredient partner. Understanding why can help us recreate delicious marriages of foods all year long.

Acidity and sweetness

We’re going to make some lemonade — but in steps. Water plus sugar tastes OK, if a bit boring after the third sip. Water plus lemon juice tastes interesting, if a tad difficult from even the first sip. Water plus sugar plus lemon juice tastes great. All three elements are in there just as they were when merely paired, but they’re best all together.

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That’s because balance is best; balance is most refreshing, most interesting.

So plain melon or mango or mulberry is delicious enough, but with a splash of something acidic (citrus juice, cider or rice vinegar, aged balsamic, plain yogurt) there’s more flavor, more electricity, more awesomeness.

Keep the happy marriage of acidity and sweetness in mind in your yearlong cooking, especially when fashioning desserts. Ice cream is great, but even better with the acidity that chocolate provides. Ripe (even overripe) fruit makes for terrific tarts, pies and confections, but honey’s acid or the tang of citrus or buttermilk can tame what might cloy.

But acidity balances, even enhances, other cooked foods that are sweet on the plate even before dessert is served. So, a squeeze of lemon over roasted winter root vegetables (with their sugars caramelized from the heat of the oven) is the kind of bad math that works: 1+1=3. Caramel plus citrus makes for many more flavors on the tongue.

Salt and sweetness; salt and acidity

Salt provides a similar balance in matches of foods that are either sweet or tart alone.

It isn’t the fat in the prosciutto that is “cut” with the sweetness of the melon that it wraps; it’s the salt in the ham (from its cure) that balances the fruit sugar. Likewise, a zip-line of lemon juice doesn’t eliminate the brininess of the oyster or clam, it balances salt against acid, thereby making the taste of the whole more interesting.

If the combination of prosciutto and melon rings your chimes, try prosciutto with any of many other sweet or ripe fruits: mango, papaya, stone fruit (peach, plum, apricot, nectarine), pineapple, orange, muscat grapes, kiwi, star fruit, and so on.

We can reach the apex of pairing saltiness with both acidity and sweetness when marrying cheeses (major depositories of salt) with foods such as marmalade, honey, ripe fruits such as figs or dates, and drops of aged balsamic — all foods that marry both sweetness and acidity to the salt of cheese.

This is also why the Hawaiian pizza (cheese, salt, pineapple, ham or Canadian bacon) shall not perish from the earth.

And accents

I like to think that the real reason that we pair ripe summer tomatoes with basil (or, for that matter, lamb with mint sauce or salmon with lemon) is diversion, even distraction.

A truly magnificent ripe tomato is just too. Much. Beauty. Its overwhelming aesthetic must be tamed in order to process it all. Basil snaps the mind back to attention, plants it back to earth.

So does mint on ripe berry, or mint with the funk of lamb. Succulent, oil-rich salmon, well, it can pile on too much to matter in the mouth. Thank you, edge of lemon; you frame this baroque so well.

And what is it, then, with melted butter on corn, or the great Mexican combination of grilled corn (elote) with mayonnaise or crema?

Well, that is simply the human thing to do come summertime: Pile rich on rich, throw sweet on top of sweet.

I don’t see any problem with that marriage, do you?

Balsamic and Basil Berry Salad

From barefeetinthekitchen.com; serves 6-8

Note: The sugar in the recipe below is optional. Only add it if the berries aren’t quite as sweet as you would like.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh strawberries quartered or cut bite-size
  • 12 ounces fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons traditional or white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar (optional)
  • 8 basil leaves sliced very thin

Directions

Combine the strawberries and blueberries in a medium-size bowl. Drizzle with balsamic and oil. Sprinkle with salt, and with sugar if desired. Stir gently to coat. Sprinkle with basil and toss once more. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to an hour.

Lime-Mint Melon Salad

From tablespoon.com; serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of 1/2-inch cubes honeydew melon (1/2 medium)
  • 1 1/2 cups of 1/2-inch cubes cantaloupe (1/2 medium)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime peel
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 1 tablespoon dried mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

In medium glass or plastic bowl, toss ingredients. Cover; refrigerate about 2 hours or until chilled.

A fate “worse than death”: Aurora teen Lashaya Stine still missing after 3 years, family suspects human trafficking

5 hours 35 min ago

The hardest part for Sabrina Jones is not knowing where her daughter went.

She doesn’t know if Lashaya Stine, who would be 19, is even still alive. And she doesn’t understand why her family is no closer to finding her. Lashaya is the first thing Jones thinks about when she wakes up and the last before she falls asleep.

“When a child dies and you know, you can start to heal,” Jones said. “But when you don’t know where she is and what she’s going through, you’re in a gray area. To me, that’s worse than death. What if we never know?”

Provided by Aurora PoliceLashaya Nae Stine, now 19, has been missing for three years.

Three years ago this month, Lashaya left her family’s Aurora home in the wee hours of the morning. Her last known location was near a bus stop where a surveillance camera recorded her crossing a street. Police do not believe Lashaya is a teenage runaway although an Aurora detective who investigates missing children does not have one particular theory about where she went.

Jones, however, believes her daughter is a victim of trafficking.

The circumstances surrounding Stine’s disappearance are not characteristic of her — she would have taken more items with her if she was running away, especially because her daughter was “a diva,” Jones said, smiling.

Police investigators initially thought Stine ran away, but they quickly realized she had no more social media presence and had stopped contact with every person she knew, said Sgt. Chris Poppe who oversees the Crimes Against Children Unit. That behavior indicates she did not run away.

For Jones and the rest of the family, anniversaries are especially painful.

On July 15 — the anniversary of the teen’s disappearance — family members gathered at Jones’ home. They cried, they stomped and they prayed.

“I absolutely lost my mind this morning,” Jones said.

Over the past three years, Jones has been through a lot. There were days when she didn’t think she could continue living. She lost 50 lbs since her daughter went missing. There are days when she can’t eat or sleep.

“I’d give anything to just hear her voice,” Jones said. “I need that so, so badly.”

Lashaya’s mom wants to get at least one message to her: “I’m so sorry, baby. I know you’re scared.” She would also tell Lashaya that she’s not giving up.

Lashaya was just learning to drive, preparing to start an internship and had already begun scholarship and college applications for nursing. She was an honor roll student at George Washington High School. She and her mom were shopping online for scrubs and prom dresses.

Now, Jones can’t even bear to walk into her daughter’s room.

Jones, her 20-year-old son Shaeron Stine, and a couple of other family members carry a constant reminder of Lashaya everywhere they go — they each have a unique “#Find Lashaya” tattoo permanently etched on their bodies.

“It’s still hard to believe to this day,” Shaeron Stine, one of Lashaya’s five brothers, said. “There’s no trace of her. At least if we knew something, it would help a whole lot. We’re going to keep looking and do what we have to do to keep this going.”

But everyone else, aside from detectives, seems to be moving on, leaving the story of the beloved teen’s disappearance a distant memory, Jones said.

Jones once planned fundraisers and events to keep her daughter’s story in people’s minds, aiming to jog even the slightest memory.

But attendance dwindled, even by her own friends, and that hurt Jones. She stopped hosting them and instead focused on grieving with family. She continues posting photos and flyers of her daughter around town and on Facebook. She communicates with Aurora police and is now waiting for a new flyer to distribute that will include an age-progressed photo of Lashaya.

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary the day Lashaya disappeared. Jones went to bed planning to take her daughter to an interview at Firehouse Subs the next day.

At about 2 a.m., Lashaya scolded her younger brothers for being awake and told them if they didn’t go to sleep, she would tell Jones.

So, they did, and she closed their bedroom doors behind her.

Without any extra clothes or even her wallet, Lashaya left her house. She was last seen on surveillance footage at 2:30 a.m. near Peoria Street and Montview Boulevard.

Shaeron Stine, then 17, was asleep when his sister left that night, and he keeps replaying it.

He gets emotional recalling his relationship with Lashaya, one typical of siblings: They loved each other, but they often fought. His younger sister’s disappearance puts the situation in a new light.

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver PostShaeron Stine shows a tattoo he had done for his sister LaShaya at the family’s home in Aurora on July 15, 2019. LaShaya has been missing for three years. She was last seen at 2:30 a.m. near Peoria Street and Montview Boulevard on July 15, 2016. She was 16 years old at the time. The family has no idea where she is or what has happened to her. Shaeron said many members of his family have similar tattoos. His reads #FindLaShaya.

“I just wish my sister and I didn’t argue so much,” he said. “I feel like I wasn’t there as much as I should have been. It hurts a lot.”

He recognizes he can’t go back in time, so he’s focusing on taking care of his family, his 2-year-old son and keeping Lashaya’s memory alive as the search continues.

“I just hope that one day, they get to meet each other,” Shaeron Stine said of his sister and baby.

Both Jones and Shaeron Stine agreed the tragedy has brought their family closer together.

The family has fielded hundreds of calls and tips claiming to know where Lashaya is and who she is with, many pointing to motels on Colfax, in other parts of the Denver metro area, and even in other states.

Police led outreach campaigns and staked out various parts of the city. They used K-9s. Even Aurora police Chief Nick Metz met with Lashaya’s family and made a video urging members of the public to help. Friends and family went undercover. Before police began investigating, Jones and family members canvassed neighborhoods, conducted interviews and stormed social media with posts about Lashaya. Volunteers conducted surveillance outside motels.

None of it panned out.

Most of the tips turned out to be cases of mistaken identity, Poppe said.

Sometimes, the family would receive tips too late. Other times, people would hint at possible trafficking but could provide no proof.

That first year was brutal and “hell on wheels” for Jones. The next year was even worse. The mother developed a heart condition, likely caused by stress.

“It was a roller-coaster ride that I wanted to get off of but couldn’t,” she said.

Aurora detectives haven’t ruled out human trafficking as a reason for Stine’s disappearance.

“It’s one of the theories we continue to explore,” Poppe said.

The circumstances surrounding Stine’s case appear similar to cases involving trafficked people — victims become socially isolated from everyone they know, they don’t have access to their identification documents and it’s hard for them to leave because of extensive brainwashing or abuse.

Traffickers typically target vulnerable people and get them to trust them. Lashaya’s family described her as smart and kind but sheltered and often naive.

The grooming process occurs over time as a trafficker learns a victim’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities, said Megan Lundstrom, director of Free Our Girls, a nonprofit aimed at providing education and training about human trafficking.

“By the time a victim realizes, ‘I don’t know if this is safe for me,’ the abuser has some power over them,” Lundstrom said.

Eventually, the victim thinks they don’t want to leave. It often takes psychological intervention as well as six to 12 attempts to escape, Lundstrom said.

Jones said they’ve received tips that Stine has been seen with a woman who helps recruit for traffickers. Though not proven, she said she can see her daughter being too trusting.

The family almost fell victim to extortion schemes related to Stine’s disappearance, one of which resulted in prosecution.

At least four detectives continue to chase leads, some of which have led investigators to partner with police in California, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Kansas and Iowa — all states where tipsters have said they saw Stine.

“Everybody’s really committed to finding out happened to Lashaya three years ago,” Poppe said.

The tips have tapered off but police and the family continue to keep Stine’s story in local and national landscapes.

Aurora Police Department, Metro Denver Crime Stoppers and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are offering a $15,000 reward.

“We know that someone has information that will help to answer the questions related to Lashaya’s whereabouts,” Poppe said. “The person who has information that will ultimately help us solve this case has yet to come forward to police.”

Anyone with tips can call Aurora police at 303-739-6164 or call crime stoppers and remain anonymous at 720-913-7867.

Broncos Mailbag: Does Joe Flacco have enough talent around him to succeed?

5 hours 35 min ago

Denver Post Broncos writer Ryan O’Halloran posts his Broncos Mailbag weekly during the season.

You can pose a Broncos- or NFL-related question for the Broncos Mailbag here. Follow Ryan for more daily updates on Twitter.

Sure enough, the inside linebacker position is already rearing its ugly head. We drafted no one at our position of weakness and now what do we have for depth? Justin Hollins cannot be expected to play the middle (I still can’t believe we took him over Ben Burr-Kirven). And now we are looking at last year’s special teams players and undrafted rookies. I suggested earlier that scheme could only mask so much and we had better have someone positioned to monitor the waiver wire as I cannot see what else we can do. By my estimation there will be some 39-40 ILBs cut by the end of training camp for various reasons. Our pro scout had better be on it as both (director of player personnel) Matt Russell and (college scouring coordinator) Dave Bratten totally whiffed at the draft.

— Allan Tremblay, Edmonton, Canada

We start with the rare question (complete with comments) that doesn’t sling arrows at general manager John Elway for the Broncos’ personnel issues. Allan is right about inside linebacker — depth was an issue and then starter Todd Davis tweaked his calf and is out a few more weeks. And then Hollins, who was playing inside on sub-package downs, became limited with a hamstring injury. So where does that leave the Broncos? 1. Hoping Davis will be ready for Week 1 at Oakland. 2. Relying on second-year player Josey Jewell to handle more of the communication and get the other inside linebacker on the same page. 3. A potentially increased role for Hollins, a big ask for a rookie to learn two spots. 4. Scouring the waiver wire for depth options (a long shot). Rookie Josh Watson got some run with the first-teamers in practice on Sunday-Monday and Alexander Johnson worked with the starters as well. I wouldn’t say it’s time to panic, but thinking out loud, what if Davis isn’t ready for Oakland or is just ready for base-package duty? Do the Broncos shift into more of a “dime” look (six defensive backs) or stick with “nickel” (five)? I think dime would be a consideration.

RELATED: Jamal Carter eyes return to Broncos’ secondary: “I can play way faster”

How’s the team looking so far in training camp, Ryan? Anyone under-the-radar who’s impressing you thus far?

— Keith, Greenwood Village

The Broncos practiced five consecutive days and it started to show on Sunday (several pre-snap penalties) and Monday (several dropped passes). The early sample size shows the Broncos should be confident in their pass defense. They have edge rushers (Von Miller/Bradley Chubb), good cornerbacks (Chris Harris/Bryce Callahan), a versatile player (Kareem Jackson) and a safety (Justin Simmons) who has been around the football. On offense, it’s a positive that running back Phillip Lindsay (wrist) has been able to practice every day and go through inside run-game drills. Quarterback Joe Flacco hasn’t unleashed the deep pass just yet, but is getting a ton of reps. As for under-the-radar players, receiver Trinity Benson is taking advantage of his reps, we mentioned Watson above at inside linebacker and tight end Austin Fort has made several good catches.

Ryan, what can we expect from Joe Flacco this year? Did John Elway give him enough weapons and a strong enough offensive line for him to thrive?

— Conor, Denver

Expectations for Flacco: He will make good decisions, will live to play another down when his protection breaks down and knows how to lead a team down the field in crunch time. Did Elway give him enough weapons? There should be some concern since receiver Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) remains limited to individual drills and tight end Jake Butt (knee), who missed the last two practices. Strong enough offensive line? This is a big question mark. Can right guard Ron Leary stay healthy? Can left guard Dalton Risner make the college-to-NFL transition quickly? Can Mike Munchak get left tackle Garett Bolles to play like a former first-round pick? Is Connor McGovern the answer at center? Tough questions and no easy answers right now.

What’s with all these national guys saying the Broncos are going to be terrible this year? We’ve beefed up the O-line, got a tight end in the draft, improved the secondary and Bradley Chubb is a year older. I see them going 9-7, possibly 10-6 this year. What about you?

— Tim S., San Diego

The Broncos went 5-11 and 6-10 the last two years, the Chargers and Chiefs were 2018 playoff teams and the Raiders got receiver Antonio Brown. Therefore, the lack of national optimism. Can’t really argue against anybody picking this team to go below .500. In fact, that’s probably where I’m leaning right now. It’s one of those things — the roster may be improved and the coaching may be improved, but the record may be only 1-2 games improved.

How is Noah Fant looking in camp so far? Is he really the first-round talent Elway thinks he is?

— Tyson, Parker

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Fant has had a few catches and hasn’t done anything to show he shouldn’t have been the Broncos’ first-round pick. Interestingly, the coaches have been pounding the drums about how impressed they are with Fant’s run-blocking ability. Reading between the words, that would seem to indicate he will have a big first-down role once the season starts. I haven’t seen him run down the seams to catch a deep pass quite yet.

What’s the biggest difference between this year’s training camp and last year’s with Vance Joseph? Have you seen a change in tone with Vic Fangio? Are the players responding better?

— Mike, Englewood

I was talking about this topic with somebody during practice on Monday (before I saw this question). I’ve covered the Redskins, Jaguars and now Broncos. By and large, an NFL practice looks the same no matter the coach or locale. Stretching. Individuals. Special teams. Team (11-on-11). Team (7-on-7). Offensive line vs. defensive line. Special teams. During a Fangio practice, there isn’t a lot of standing around — horn sounds, go to the next drill. That would suggest a good tempo.

Colorado’s prison population was slated to set a record high. Now forecasters say that may not happen.

5 hours 35 min ago

A radically revised prison population estimate shows that Colorado will likely avoid setting a new record high number of inmates and could give hope to Colorado lawmakers and advocates hoping to address crowded prisons without expanding bed capacity.

Statisticians in December estimated that Colorado’s prison population would steadily increase and reach more than 24,000 by June 2025, which would have been an all-time record for the state. After a recalculation in May, however, the experts now estimate that the population at that time will be approximately 20,878 — far below the system’s peak population in 2009.

“That’s a fairly significant degree of forecast error, even for this forecast,” Greg Sobetski, a staff forecaster with the legislative council, told a committee of lawmakers and criminal justice experts Monday at a meeting to discuss prison population.

Lawmakers for years have struggled to address a crowded prison system, where extremely low vacancy rates sometimes mean less than a hundred of the state’s 14,500 beds are available and private prisons have been used to house thousands of additional inmates. The issue has created a tug-of-war between a Department of Corrections that has repeatedly asked for millions of dollars to address the problem while lawmakers look for other, less-costly methods to reduce the population such as parole and sentencing reform.

RELATED: Drug kingpin El Chapo arrives at Supermax prison in Colorado

The accuracy of population forecasts has often played at the center of the debates. Repeated calls by the prison system for money to address overcrowding — even as the prison population has steadily fallen since a high of 23,200 in 2009 — have been met with growing skepticism by lawmakers as the worst of the predictions have not been realized.

“This specific modeling has been off for years,” state Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, said Monday at the meeting of the interim committee on managing the prison population.

Instead of a steady increase, experts now expect the prison population to remain fairly level or show a slight decline until mid-2021, said Linda Harrison, senior statistical analyst at the state Department of Public Safety. Then the numbers likely will trend slowly upward, reflecting statewide population growth.

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The system saw a small increase in the number of people being released, but Sobetski said the biggest factor in the changed forecast was a drop in the number of people admitted to prisons on new charges. The system’s population has dropped every month since February to the 19,951 inmates counted in June, bucking both 2019 and three-year projections.

Sobetski said it’s unclear what is driving that drop. Factors could include changes in policing, less crime, decisions from judges and diversion programs. It’s also unclear what impact a slate of criminal justice reform laws passed this year has had on the numbers.

“If they continue to drop through November, that will have a significant impact on my forecast,” he said.