Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio used the final preseason game on Saturday to give some long-term absentees a taste and feel for the action. Returning No. 1 wide receiver Courtland Sutton looked the part, running crisp routes and cutting off the turf with his surgically repaired knee.
Sutton also managed to link up nicely with his new starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for a second-quarter touchdown which had extra significance for the fourth-year wideout as he makes his way back to full strength.
“It was nice. [It was] one of the big things I wanted to do,” Sutton said post-game. “I looked at it as part of my rehab—get in the game and go back and make game reps. You know, gameplays. You can go out there and practice as hard as you want, but in the game, something is a bit different. Being able to go out there and get those game reps, it was really nice and promising for sure.”
Risk and reward would just about cover the strategy of fielding not only Sutton, but star pass rusher Von Miller, who is also recovering from major surgery. Sutton’s 8-yard touchdown reception was greeted by jubilation on the Broncos' sideline, which is testament to the 25-year-old's popularity, and it didn’t go unnoticed by the receiver.
“Man, it was special,” Sutton said. “All my teammates, coaches, training staff, strength staff, equipment staff, the media, the PR guys—everybody has seen the hard work that it has taken for us to be able to come back. To have that moment in Broncos Country with my teammates on the sideline, it was amazing, and it was special. It may have been the preseason, but to have that moment and to be able to share it with the guys, it was dope.”
Losing Sutton last season hampered the entire Broncos' offense and the expectation is he can put up big numbers in a new-look line-up with Bridgewater at the controls. For his part, Miller will be asked to produce sacks on opponents as is his standard remit, and he appeared with Sutton on the podium to detail how the pair had helped each other rehab.
“We have a very close friendship; this is my guy right here,” Miller acknowledged Sutton. “When you put all those hours early in the morning when we rehab together. It wasn’t dope then, but when we reflect on this, we think that it really helped out our friendship.”
That band of brothers-type friendship will be tested by the new 17-game regular season that is sure to wear on both body and mind, but both lynchpins are ready and back where they belong with the Broncos.
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