ENGLEWOOD | The Denver Broncos’ revamped offense features a half-dozen key players coming back from injuries that ended their 2018 seasons prematurely.
Right guard Ronald Leary thinks so.
Like receiver Emmanuel Sanders, Leary is coming off a torn Achilles tendon.
Tight ends Troy Fumagalli (sports hernia) and Jake Butt (ACL) are also embarking on comebacks, as are Pro Bowl running back Phillip Lindsay (wrist) and new quarterback Joe Flacco , whose hip injury cost him his starting job last year in Baltimore when the Ravens turned over things to rookie Lamar Jackson.
All six players say their injuries forced them to reflect during rehab and gave them a newfound appreciation for football.
Collectively, Leary suggested that will prove a benefit as the Broncos embark on another new scheme under new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello.
“All the guys you named coming back from injury are big parts of this offense,” Leary said Friday. “And especially when the game’s taken away from you with a significant injury, you appreciate everything more. Not saying we didn’t appreciate it already, but when it’s just like anything in life, when something’s taken away from you, you appreciate it even more.
“I think we got a lot to bring the offense, a lot of juice. We’ve got the right mentality coming into camp. I mean, all of our teammates are happy to see us coming back.”
Leary said he realized during his recovery that he has more resilience and patience than he thought, and he’s sure he’s not alone in that discovery.
“With the type of injury I had there was so much down time in the beginning where you can’t do anything,” Leary said. “You’re just sitting around. So, I started reading more, just talking to my wife more, just learning more about myself and just realizing how much I appreciate the game, how much harder I wanted to work in rehab to get back out on that field.”
Leary was cleared near the end of OTAs, but Sanders and Lindsay missed the Broncos’ entire offseason program. Both were back on the field this week, however, when the Broncos became the first NFL team to open training camp.
“Moving around, feeling no pain, feeling good and feeling like myself,” Sanders declared. “I know a lot of people didn’t expect that, so it’s just a testament of all the hard work I put in, all the pain that I went through to be standing here.”
Although Sanders is limited, he’s building a rapport with Flacco by being on the field during camp instead of the sideline .
“Flacco is a baller,” Sanders said. “I think things are going to be OK. I think we’re going to be OK. I like the way he spins the ball. I think we will have a lot of success this year. … I call him ‘Pretty Boy’ Flacco. That’s his name. He’s just smooth.”
Much like Peyton Manning did in 2012 after missing an entire season in Indianapolis following a series of neck fusion surgeries, Flacco is coming to Denver with a shot at resurrecting his career following an injury.
“There is an energy about coming here and an excitement that I feel about coming to this new team and getting another chance to be a starting quarterback in this league,” Flacco said.
General manager John Elway said, “Any time you get traded midway in your career or two-thirds of the way through your career, you’ve got something to prove.”
“Yeah, there’s no doubt,” Flacco agreed. “Listen, I think I’ve got a lot left in the tank. And I feel like I can do a lot more than I’ve shown in my 11-year career. I’m excited about that.”
And starting his first training camp outside Baltimore, Flacco said, “I feel like a little kid.”
So does Lindsay, who hated having to watch fellow running backs Devontae Booker and Royce Freeman get carries while he continued his rehab during OTAs.
“I like the grind. I like being tired. I like the sweat, the blood, the tears,” Lindsay said. “That’s what I’m here for.”
NOTES: Alexander Johnson was the first of many ILBs who filled in for Todd Davis, the team’s leading tackler last season, who is expected to miss 3-4 weeks with a partial tear of his right calf.