ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The best way Bradley Chubb copes with the his unfulfilled Broncos career requires faith.
Sometimes you have to believe in what you can't see.
"Being here the last couple of years and things not going as well as we wanted as an organization and as I wanted as a player, I feel like this is just the year to make everything happen," Chubb said Thursday after a voluntary OTA workout. "Man of my faith, I feel like you have to go through something bad to get to the good."
Chubb collided with adversity two of the past three seasons, missing 12 games in 2019 due to a torn ACL and 10 last season because of problems with both ankles that required surgery to remove bone spurs.
Of all the things that seemed impossible last season, Jerry Jeudy finishing with zero touchdowns and Chubb delivering no sacks remain the most incredulous. Chubb made the Pro Bowl in 2020, crept toward a monster contract, then his body betrayed him.
Now, he has reached a crossroads in his career, entering his fifth season. Perhaps no Broncos player has more at stake financially — return to stardom and Chubb could net a $25 million-a-year-contract or something similar on a franchise tag. Struggle with injuries, and he might be forced to take a one-year, make-good deal on the open market.
To Chubb's credit, he is keeping a narrow focus rather than getting lost in more questions than Rudyard Kipling's "If."
"I know I didn't put my best foot forward last year on the field," said Chubb, who posted 12 sacks as a rookie, but has been limited to 8.5 over his last 25 games. "That's what it comes down to, making plays, and doing things to help this organization win. I feel I wasn't in that position last year. My goal is to play 17 games and win as many as possible. That contract stuff is going to come. If you stress about it, that's when you end up doing things you don't need to be doing."
The Broncos are living a new reality. With quarterback Russell Wilson as the face of the franchise — he recently bought a $26-million home in Cherry Hills, yet another sign of his desire to be a long-term fixture in Denver — anything less than a playoff berth will be a colossal disappointment. Two slogans have emerged this offseason: The Storm is Coming, painted in the weight room, and Win The West, plastered on t-shirts.
For Chubb, the Wilson addition has been like a trip into the past. He met Wilson in 2014 during his recruiting trip to North Carolina State when Wilson had his number retired.
"It was a quick little interaction. But when I found out we had him, it was crazy. I just jumped up and down," said Chubb, who was in class at N.C. State to finish his sociology degree to honor of a promise to his mother. "It's been great so far to see his leadership style and how he attacks every day. It's going to be fun for not only me to learn from him, but the O-line and receivers and for just everybody to have that energy he brings."
When Chubb is healthy, he remains an impact player. But the pressure to do so this year has increased. The Broncos paired free agent Randy Gregory with Chubb. Both feature tantalizing talent, but a wake of absences. Gregory, largely due to suspensions, has missed more games than he has played and will use the entire offseason to recuperate from rotator cuff surgery.
Can this pair turn potential into production?
"The sky is the limit," Chubb said. "It's going to break for us."