Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton is still completing his arduous recovery from the ACL tear he suffered last September, so it should come as no surprise that the second-year Jerry Jeudy has claimed the team's WR1 designation, however temporary it might be. That controversial theory might get plenty of clicks on social media, but in truth, it owes a lot more to the cautious rehab strategy of Denver's medical staff than it does Sutton losing his mojo.
Rush linebacker Von Miller has already articulated his preference avoiding an artificial surface in his first game back from his season-ending injury from last year, which is notoriously hard on joints and tendons. While Sutton has more youth on his side than Miller, it’s still a discussion with Broncos trainers ahead of Saturday's preseason Game 2 at the Seattle Seahawks.
“We’re still talking about it, trying to figure out which one we want to do,” Sutton said on Thursday after practice. “I’m definitely going to play in one of them [preseason games] just so we can get those game reps in, get that first tackle in if that happens.”
As for the state of Sutton's knee, there have been no setbacks. So far, so good.
“The knee feels good," Sutton said. "It’s been a lot of fun to be able to go out here and compete with the boys during camp... Appreciate it.”
While most starters tend to sit out the last preseason game to avoid major injuries, that was back when the exhibition slate of games number four in total. This year, there are only three preseason games.
Making his preseason debut at home and on natural grass might be the preferred option for the fourth-year wideout. Getting the timing of his rehab right has been ongoing so it’s been all about sticking to the plan and not pushing things beyond their limits too early for Sutton.
“All of them have been great throughout this entire process,” Sutton said. “When they say go, I go. When they say 'whoa,' I still go. I take it back a little bit but I definitely listen to the people who know more about certain things than I do.”
Sutton confirmed him and the team's goal is for him to appear in at least one preseason game, putting him on track to be ready for the regular-season opener on September 12.
“Yes, sir," Sutton confirmed.
Those looking for potential red flags in Sutton’s recovery have also noted the continued use of a bulky-looking brace on his surgically repaired knee. The 25-year-old was open and forthcoming while discussing the brace after practice on Thursday, explaining how he trusted the trainers to find one that is lightweight and doesn’t really bother him.
“I don’t really think about it too much. The trainers did a good job of getting me the right brace. It’s very light,” Sutton said. “I don’t even think about it. It’s just there.”
Once the lights go on for the regular season, the expectation is that Sutton will be a full go, which should also put to bed any of the speculation about his recovery, not to mention his status as Denver's true WR1.
Sutton's outlook for the offense this year is bullish, to say the least. In the wake of 2020's pandemic offseason, the Broncos struggled to assimilate new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur's scheme with zero reps. That hasn't been the case this year as the young offensive players have gotten the traditional slate of offseason and training camp reps.
“I think for the entire offense, just being able to have that year underneath our belt," Sutton said of Shurmur's scheme. "This year, being able to have the opportunity to work those routes and work those concepts and to play those certain concepts against multiple different defenses so that we can know what we like and what we don’t like. I think all of that’s been really positive for us.”
The wide receiver position is arguably the most dependent in the game of football, requiring synergy and execution from the quarterback in order to thrive. So, with 17 full training camp practices in the books, Sutton spoke to his confidence in the Broncos' quarterback situation, whether it ends up being Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater who wins the starting job.
“Like I’ve told you guys before, those dudes are battling their butts off. It’s fun to be able to go out there and watch both of them move—not even just while they’re in the games," Sutton said. "They’re working their butts off. It’s definitely fun to see.”
Don't worry too much about Sutton as his Pro Bowl season in 2019 came on the receiving end of three different quarterbacks throwing him the ball. So long as the sun is shining on gameday, Sutton will find a way to make hay.
Follow Keith on Twitter @KeithC_NFL.
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