Summer is coming to an end and the back-to-school sales are popping up around the country. But for the Mile High City, another school is in session. Denver Broncos training camp is here.
Many questions and doubts continue to loom over the 2016 Broncos, as they begin their campaign to repeat as Super Bowl Champions.
The night before camp began, head coach Gary Kubiak gathered his team and gave them perhaps a different message than many players were expecting—a new perspective, if you will.
“I talked to them about focusing on everything moving forward," Kubiak said a week ago. "I told them that we’re not defending anything, we’re chasing the next one and we’re going to work on the next one."
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p... Kubiak’s philosophy is clear. He has no intention of resting on the laurels of his 2015 World-Champion season and articulated that fact even more clearly when Jay Z’s “On to the Next One” could be heard as the first song played when training commenced on Thursday, July 28.
“We’ll let everything go and let’s go put this group together and get our focus moving forward. Everything’s about moving forward.”
And with their new vision in line, the Broncos went into training camp ready to work.
“Our mission right now is to get this group of guys as good as we can possibly get them,” Kubiak said. “We’ve got an opportunity in many areas to improve this football team, but we can’t do it until we go to work, so let’s go to work.”
One area, in particular, Kubiak has focused on during camp is the rotation of his running backs. Last season, the team struggled to find consistency in their rushing attack—until the postseason—and it seems that this year Kubiak has decided to take a more unconventional approach.
“You guys see we’ve got four backs, which is probably unusual for training camp," he said. "You maybe take five at least, but I feel really good with [RB] Juwan [Thompson] doing a little bit of both [halfback and fullback], so it’s going to be very competitive.”
Additionally, Kubiak seems hopeful that one of their 2016 draft picks will create a large role.
“Books [RB Devontae Booker] got turned loose today and did almost everything,” Kubiak said following day one of camp.
Back in April, the Broncos took a risk in the drafting of All PAC-12 running back Devontae Booker out of the University of Utah, and a week into training camp, that risk seems to be paying off
Many NFL teams questioned Booker’s ability to be a playmaker in 2016, following a season ending injury at Utah that required not one, but two surgeries. Right off the bat, Kubiak sang a different tune.
"Can't wait to get you here, man.” Kubiak said back in April.
Although Booker might have waited longer than he would’ve liked, going 136th overall in the fourth round and watching six running backs go before him, he proved patience to be a virtue, as he is now positioning himself to be a strong candidate for large role with the Broncos in 2016.
“I feel good," Booker said recently. "I don’t think I could have landed in a better situation here in this offensive scheme. I’m going to do everything I can to go out there and play my butt off. “
Booker has taken the opportunity the Broncos have given him with a humble determination and is very thankful to be out there on the field, after his professional playing career was in doubt.
“I'm having a lot of fun. Especially that I get to be out here a whole 100 percent doing drills and things. I'm loving it.”
Gratitude, grit, and a whole lot of gumption got Devontae into a position that just six months ago could have easily slipped between his fingers.
As former Houston Oilers and Atlanta Falcons head coach Jerry Glanville coined, NFL means "not for long". A now healthy Devontae Booker remembers feeling like his NFL aspirations might have been stopped in their tracks before they could ever get started.
On Saturday, November 14th, in a 37-30 double overtime loss at Arizona, Utah’s starting running back took a hard hit from the right side and was taken off the field for what was later determined to be a torn meniscus and bone bruising in his left knee. At the time, Booker remained hopeful about the future of his football career.
“I’m not banged up at all, really—just something that I’ve got to get treated and get better before the game,” Booker said. “If it isn’t I’ve just got to respect it and go with it from there.".
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1692672-broncos-2016-training-cam... Before his injury, Booker spent his senior season making waves for Utah. From a leadership standpoint, he made his presence felt on the field, accounting for 70 percent of Utah’s rushing production.
In fact, up until his injury, Booker ranked No. 3 in Pac-12 rushing, with 1,261 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 120 yards per game and was ranked 10th nationally overall. He carried around a resume that would have impressed Jerry Glanville himself. The sky was the limit for Devontae Booker.
But no one could have predicted that Utah’s “workhorse”, who had been considered the most important component to their offense, would end his senior year on the sidelines.
While initially it was reported his tear was not severe and Booker would only be out four-to-six weeks, all that changed in February 2016.
“I got a repair done in November and after the repair it wasn’t healing how it was supposed to, so in February they went back in and trimmed the meniscus.“
The ramifications of the second surgery were rippling. As a result, Booker was unable to participate in most NFL Combine and Utah Pro Day activities, leaving a once top running back prospect with a giant question mark over his head in regards to his NFL future.
Booker himself admitted he didn’t know what to expect of the road ahead. Two days before Broncos camp began, he revealed his biggest struggle while rehabbing.
“This was my first injury ever," he said. "I didn’t know what to expect. It was tough in the beginning doing the rehab stuff because it was my first injury ever.”
And luckily for the Sacramento native, there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
“Once I started getting back in the groove of things and started feeling my knee coming back to normal, then everything started going out the door with me thinking about my knee and wanted to get it stronger.”
Booker’s road to training camp didn’t come easy. Months of rehab and recovery, along with a prolific collegiate career, got him to be where he is today.
“It was definitely an investment for me over this whole portion when I got up here," Booker said. "I actually stayed here throughout the summer break when all the guys went home. I was just rehabbing.”
Pundits have been on both sides of the fence in regards to Booker's 2016 expectations, and some have even described the rookie “as a really good No. 2”.
Booker, however, has bigger plans in store for himself, starting with training camp.
“Being a rookie, everybody wants to see what I bring to the table and we'll just find out here shortly.” Booker expressed, "I’m not there to carry pads. I’m there to take someone’s job."
Jerry Glanville may have coined the term “Not For Long,” but Booker is ready to make a lasting impression in the 303.
At 5-foot-11 and 219 pounds, Booker is known for his compact, powerful build, which allowed him to grind down his opponents on the grid-iron and frequently break tackles. Off the field, his bulldozing style earned him the nick name “Book Mode”, an homage to former Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch’s “Beast Mode”.
“I really confident about it. I’m just here to compete and do what I need to do for the team so I can get out and play a lot this year. I think I’m relied on heavily by some of the coaches to exceed expectations, and I believe that I will do so.”
So what is exactly is beast mode, you might ask? Marshawn Lynch provides us with some insight.
“It's an accomplishment, that you put yourself through something to get something better out of it. I feel that that's Beast Mode”
Given his treacherous and long journey to the league, I think it goes without saying; this “Book Mode” rookie is ready to go full Beast Mode in the Mile High City.
Jeannae Elyse Bierstedt is a Columnist for Mile High Huddle. You can find her on Twitter @JeannaeElyse.
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