ENGLEWOOD, Colo—Ten months ago, wide receiver Jordan Norwood had solidified a spot on the Denver Broncos final 53-man roster. It was late August and after competing hard in training camp and producing at a high level in preseason action, the coaching staff was sold.
Then the injury bug struck.
Norwood tore his ACL in practice and was placed on injured reserve, ending his season. He had carved himself out a spot on the roster by not only making plays on offense, but also as the team’s primary punt returner.
John Fox and company would eventually turn to rookie receiver Isaiah Burse to fill Norwood’s vacated roster spot. Burse saw no meaningful snaps on offense and was below average as a returner. He was eventually waived after Week 13 and re-signed to the practice squad.
Instead of contributing to his team, Norwood was forced to watch from home, as he began the long rehab and recovery process post-surgery. Although he’s still wearing a knee brace, he is back on the football field, looking to make up for lost time.
“I think I’ve been doing well,” Norwood said via the team. “I mean, I’ve been having to prove some things to myself, really, just as far as being able to play on my knee and everything. Just getting some confidence back. So it’s been going well.”
Norwood went undrafted out of Penn State in 2009, but caught on with the Cleveland Browns as a rookie. From there, he spent the next several seasons bouncing around the NFL, spending time with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Browns again, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
When the Broncos signed him in the 2014 offseason, he was billed as a long-shot to make the team. Trying to move up a depth chart that featured three Pro Bowl receivers and a rookie second round pick, was a daunting task. But Norwood found a way to make an impact.
Going undrafted and bouncing around the league, Norwood is no stranger to the process of having to impress new coaches. He’s ready to put the past behind him and focus on making a good impression on Gary Kubiak and the Broncos new coaching regime.
“I mean, I feel like it’s a new season,” he said. “New coaching staff and a new opportunity to prove yourself and be a part of the team.”
Considering that the Broncos chose not to bring back Wes Welker and their lack of options in the kick/punt return game, Norwood has another prime opportunity to make the final roster. Demaryius Thomas’ football truancy has also helped get Norwood some extra reps. In his time with the team, Norwood has also forged chemistry with quarterback Brock Osweiler.
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At the end of the day, Norwood is going to continue to work hard and do what he does best—make the most of his opportunities. Although he faces competition from the bottom of the roster from UDFA Jordan Taylor, Bennie Fowler, Solomon Patton, Nathan Palmer, David Porter, Kyle Williams and the aforementioned Burse, some things are outside his control. All he can do is put his head down and continue to grind.
“I mean, that’s up to the coaches,” he said. “I’m just gonna come out here and work hard. When the opportunities present themselves, I’m gonna jump on them for sure.”
Phil Milani of DenverBroncos.com reports that Norwood fully expects to have his knee brace off in time for training camp and that the former Nittany Lion has been catching punts during this week’s mandatory mini-camp. His value to special teams is likely his best selling point to Kubiak and company.