ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Tim Patrick presents an interesting question to Broncos Country: What do you want from your players?
Patrick never ran faster than anyone else. He never was the biggest or strongest. And he never received a fast track to the roster, let alone the starting lineup. All he has done is roll up his sleeves and mock the odds against him.
Patrick signed as undrafted free agent with the Ravens in 2017. He was waived three times, including once by the Broncos. Yet, his determination never wavered. If anything, the adversity left him angry and inspired.
All of the lonely work and stubborn belief in his dream paid dividends last season. With Courtland Sutton lost to a torn ACL, Patrick seized the opportunity, posting a career-best 742 receiving yards on 51 catches with a team-leading six touchdown catches.
By any definition, it represents quite the climb. However, listening to Patrick on Wednesday, it's clear he does not believe he has reached his own personal mountaintop.
So, again, what is we want from our players? Patrick seems to deliver on all counts.
"To say ‘I made it,’ you have to do something special. The most special thing you can do in this league is win a Super Bowl. I don’t want to say I'm special because I feel like I don’t get the respect," Patrick said. "I wish I could have gotten a first-round tender, or I wish I could have gotten an extension. No, I don’t feel good. I don’t talk to you guys enough, so I need to do more. I'm not talked about on TV enough, so I need to do more. There are so many things I need to do. I have to be more consistent. It's one good year. I have to stack them because a lot of people have one good year and they go quiet the next year. My job is not to fall in that statistic.”
The blend of candor and self-awareness remains striking. Patrick was the Broncos' best offensive player last season. He had zero drops. Yet, he is approaching this season almost as if it never happened.
It makes sense even if it seems out of context with his statistics. This is who Patrick is. He is a fighter, someone who loves to compete. A moment from a few years ago captured his passion.
The 49ers treated the Broncos like a chew toy in joint practices, their dominance matched only by their volume. Patrick punched back, screaming encouragement and winning special teams drills. That versatility and intensity have served him well. And will continue to do so even if his role shifts with the return of Sutton and Jerry Jeudy poised for improvement in his second season.
"I'm a football player. I'm labeled as a receiver, but I've probably played every position in my life. I love this game, so I'm going to be out there. I'm not out there to be average. I'm out there to be the best at my position," Patrick said. "If it's special teams, I want to be the best gunner. If it's a receiver, I want to be the best receiver on the field. If it's a blocking play, I want to try and put that guy on his [butt]. I want people to fear me on the field. I don’t want to be just another guy out there.”
When the Broncos drafted Jeudy and K.J. Hamler in the first two rounds last spring, it created speculation about Patrick's future. Was there a spot for the former Utah standout? For coach Vic Fangio, it was never a topic. He has warmed to Patrick, affinity that goes back to his tangibles, not his feel-good story.
"No, Tim's never been on the roster bubble. Tim's a quality NFL receiver who would play a lot of plays for a lot of teams. I've always liked Tim," Fangio said last season. "He's a big receiver, he's got good instincts, he can catch the 50-50 balls, he's a good runner after the catch. I see Tim as a quality NFL receiver. He'll never be on the bubble."
When looking at the Broncos' offense, it seems obvious there is room for Patrick. The team has not averaged 21 points per game in five years. There is no worry about too many mouths to feed. That is a luxury for winning teams.
Denver needs all the playmakers it can find, and Patrick has proven worthy of trust no matter the quarterback. He has played with six starters and could have a seventh if Teddy Bridgewater beats out Drew Lock.
More options is a good thing no matter who's under center.
"The defense has to play us honest. We have four guys on the field that can make a big play at any moment. There's not one guy that you can just shut down because all of us are capable of taking over," Patrick said. "I think it's going to help a lot of us, and if we're on the field longer, that means there's going to be more passes and more targets for everybody. You can't compare what last year was because this is going to be a completely different team."