ENGLEWOOD — Training camp blends optimism and pain.
After eight days, the Broncos have suffered two season-ending injuries. Backup linebacker Jonas Griffith tore his ACL earlier this week during a special teams drill, an MRI revealed. He joins receiver Tim Patrick (Achilles) on the shelf.
While the losses sting, there has been a silver lining developing under the fiery orange sun at Centura Training Center. Running back Javonte Williams looks terrific. Roughly 10 months removed from ACL and PCL surgery on his right knee, it remains impossible to tell he was injured, save for the concealed brace under his tights.
Coach Sean Payton has been impressed, saying Williams will play in the preseason.
“He will get reps. It may be that we wait until week two. We haven’t gone through the outline of plays yet,” Payton said. “I like how he’s progressing.”
Williams knew this was possible a few months ago. He squatted back weights with no issues, matching, if not eclipsing his previous strength. He was walking around without a limp in February at cornerback Pat Surtain II’s charity event. He jogged with kids at his summer camp last month.
As such, he arrived at training camp ready, and took his first day off Wednesday because it was mandated as part of his mapped-out rest-and-recovery plan. Even then, he switched out of his bucket hat briefly to do some drills.
Williams leaned on faith, family, and work after suffering the first major injury of his athletic career. And it is paying dividends. His importance to this offense cannot be overstated as Payton has made clear that running the football “needs to be part of our DNA.”
“I feel like the biggest part is just being mentally focused and strong and having confidence. Every day that I am coming out and practicing and I am planting – once I start practice, I just forget about it,” said Williams, who acknowledged that he appreciates Payton’s disciplined, no-nonsense approach. “I am just out there running again. I mean, that’s a huge confidence boost for me.”
The last step in Williams’ remarkable recovery is getting tackled to the ground. He has shown bursts and sharp cutting ability. There’s no reason to believe he won’t embrace contact.
“When I am not out there playing, I don’t plan to be timid,” said Williams.
With Griffith out, the Broncos added linebacker Austin Ajiake. He spent time with the team during the offseason and impressed in a tryout.
The Broncos first-and-second string offense gained momentum in 7-on-7 drills as both Russell Wilson and Jarrett Stidham looked sharp. That all vanished during red zone drills to close practice. The defense had their way in coverage and the pass rush. …
The kicking battle played out at the end of practice. Brett Maher and Elliott Fry both missed multiple kicks from distance. …
Rookie receiver Taylor Grimes is opening eyes with his crisp routes. He had a ball batted out of his hand late in practice that might have been a fumble, but he is a name worth watching when the preseason starts.