Phillip Lindsay Reveals why he's Confident he'll Ultimately Win Broncos' RB Camp Battle
Phillip Lindsay has had to work for every opportunity he's ever received in the NFL, like all former undrafted rookies. There is no unseen force supporting him in the background such as draft pedigree, nor is there a monetary interest on the part of the team to see him succeed.
Lindsay had to scrape and claw to make the Denver Broncos roster as a rookie back in 2018 and he did that. What ensued was an unprecedented Pro Bowl campaign for Lindsay.
The next year, his production continued, although some of the explosive big plays that punctuated his rookie year were a little fewer and farther between. However, he still eclipsed the coveted 1,000-yard rushing barrier for the second straight season.
Along the way, Lindsay had to vanquish a trio of running-back rivals whom the Broncos had invested draft picks in within the previous three seasons.
- Devontae Booker, a 2016 fourth-round pick. Conquered.
- David Williams, a 2018 seventh-round pick. Dusted.
- Royce Freeman, a 2018 third-round pick. Marginalized.
Heading into his third year, if Lindsay is going to maintain his spot as the king of Denver's running back hill, he's going to have to stymie a new threat — Melvin Gordon. The Broncos signed the ex-Chargers first-round back to a two-year, $16 million deal this past spring.
As much as that initially upset him, seeing an outside back garner the payday he believed should rightfully go to him by virtue of his contributions to the Broncos, Lindsay is doing his level best to maintain an optimistic posture on the topic when in the scrutiny of the public while firing off passive-aggressive social media posts. Lindsay was once again recently asked about the Gordon addition and he tried to keep the tonality positive.
"Yeah, I mean, definitely it was a positive in the long run," Lindsay recently told the team website. "It's a long season. You need more than one back to do it. Like I said, it's a good addition for us. My reaction, at the end of the day, does it matter? He's here. I'm here. When I get the opportunity to be in the game, I'm going to make explosive plays. That's what it's all about. I'm going to go from there."
One new factor added to the Lindsay equation is the recent birth of his son. As a new father, Lindsay views his mandate to be that of a provider.
However, Lindsay is on schedule to make $750,000 in 2020. Gordon will earn $8 million, more than 10 times Lindsay's salary. One is a homegrown star that literally carried the Broncos offense for the better part of two years, the other an outside hire brought in to ostensibly provide a 'more developed' skill-set as a pass blocker and receiver out of the backfield.
It's not difficult to understand why Lindsay is still a little saucy on the subject. Gordon won't have it easy when it comes to garnering running back supremacy in Denver.
"It brings something else to the table for me," Lindsay said about fatherhood. "At the end of the day, it does make it a big deal to be able to feed my kid. And that's what it comes down to. And the fact is, I'm going to do that. So it doesn't matter who they pay for or who they brought in, they've got to get through me and it's very hard to do that."
Indeed, since high school, no running back that's ever crossed Lindsay's orbit has been able to keep him off the field. Viewed now through the lens of a father out to earn a fortune to provide for a lifetime for his son, Lindsay's outlook has only intensified.
Like most former undrafted players, he's always on the hunt for any motivator that will add to the chip on his shoulder. Remember, undrafted guys have to prove themselves daily and justify their jobs through their works. There is no draft pedigree to rest on and in Lindsay's case, there also no high-dollar contract the team is committed to extracting a return on to protect him from the vagaries of competition.
GM John Elway has kicked himself publicly for not drafting Lindsay, calling himself a "dumb-dumb" for missing the boat on Lindsay. Self-deprecation can take the pressure off an executive, but only for so long.
When asked in that same presser on December 31 whether the Broncos were going to look at offering Lindsay an extension, in light of him out-performing his CFA contract, Elway went on record on the affirmative. He could have slammed the door on the subject but instead, the GM breathed life into it. No one was talking about Lindsay getting paid at that point and few could have foreseen the Broncos ponying up the money, only to give it to an outside back.
"Yeah, we’ll look at that," Elway said in his end-of-season presser. "Again, we’ll get back into when we start planning and budgeting for 2020 and where we are money-wise. Obviously, Phillip has done a tremendous job and being the first college free agent to go over 1,000 yards (in two consecutive years to start his career). As Vic [Fangio] said last night, there are 32 dumb-dumbs that didn’t draft him and I was one of them. Thank God we talked him into coming here."
Does Elway really want to be considered also to be the "dumb dumb" who failed to recognize and appreciate what he had in Lindsay and not pay him? Only time will tell.
Meanwhile, Lindsay and Gordon will cross swords beginning at the end of July when the Broncos return for training camp. It's going to be fun to see not only how the competition shakes out but also what Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur has in store for utilizing and maximizing the talents of both backs.
Because, regardless of one's view of the Gordon addition, as Lindsay himself said, the reality is, he's here now. The Broncos are in for a dime, in for a dollar.
No matter which player wins the nominal starting job and/or the lion's share of the gameday snaps, Gordon has unique talents that can help upgrade the Broncos offense. The onus is on Coach Shurmur to find a way to maximize Gordon's skill-set, just don't expect it to come at the expense of Lindsay's playing time.