Broncos HC Vic Fangio Says Injured RT Ja'Wuan James Won't Need Surgery, 'Should be Fine'

Chad Jensen

The Denver Broncos signed Ja'Wuan James to a four-year, $52 million contract last spring. He was signed to solve the team's long-term right tackle woes and tapped to start opposite of the beleaguered Garett Bolles. 

James was signed with a fair measure of risk, as he had only played a full 16-game season in two of the five years he'd been in the league. However, the Broncos moved forward and paid him top dollar, perhaps in desperation for wanting to solve what has been one of the team's most consistent problems over the years. 

Everything was fine until James got to the regular season. In Week 1, he suffered a sprained knee 10 snaps into the game and wouldn't be seen in the starting lineup again until Week 8 where he'd last only 22 plays before exiting. 

The Broncos nursed him along, reticent to cut bait and put their prized free-agent signing on injured reserve, and so James played once more in 2019, starting in Week 14 where he played the entire first half. Elijah Wilkinson relieved him at right tackle once again and that was the last we saw of James in the Orange and Blue. 

Considering that the Broncos are locked into the James contract for 2020, getting him on the field is of the utmost importance. In his mandated press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, head coach Vic Fangio spoke to what the future holds for James. 

"No, he won't need surgery," Fangio said on Tuesday. "He should be fine." 

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James spoke with reporters as he cleaned out his locker at season's end. Suffice to say, he didn't agree with the public posture the Broncos had taken with regard to his knee injury and even implied that the team had tried to force him to play on a compromised knee.

"I tore some ligaments in my knee the first game of the season," James said in December via Nicki Jhabvala of the Athletic. "Was working back to get it healed, came back for that Colts game and ended up reinjuring it. I re-tore all the scar tissue that was healing and then ended up tearing part of my meniscus. They said it wouldn't be that serious but when I was out there, even at practice, trying to come back, my knee was buckling on me. It was just weak because the ligaments weren't strong." 

While it's good to know that he won't need surgery, the James situation baffles even the most plugged-in insiders at Dove Valley. The way the Broncos handled his injury last year might be questionable, but James arrived in Denver with a reputation for being 'soft' and for being an 'injury milker'. 

It's hard to know who to believe in the he-said/she-said of NFL PR battles. One thing's for sure; the Broncos need to get some kind of return on the investment made into James almost one year ago. 

The Broncos' best offensive performance of the 2019 season came with James playing at right tackle for a half. That's not a coincidence. He's a very talented, former first-round player. 

The Broncos want to keep second-year QB Drew Lock healthy and upright and James gives them the best chance to do so. But he's got to get out on the field and stay there.

You hope that when Fangio says James "will be fine" that it's the truth. But too often last year, the team's public talking points didn't jive with what we were seeing on the field and hearing behind closed doors. Fingers crossed.  

Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen and @MileHighHuddle.

Comments (18)
Letswin17
Letswin17

James either has enough money or he doesn't.

No. 1-13
Broncsrock
Broncsrock

James may be one of those guys who is just injury prone. I see the Broncos taking an OT within their top 3 picks as an insurance policy in case James gets injured again or if Bolles reverts back to his penalty prone ways...

BW101
BW101

"Injury milker"? wth? Starting to sound like50 million dollars down the drain.

B'wana Beast
B'wana Beast

This is why we must use the 5th year option on Bolles. If James does not produce/ even play; it be better to move on from James over Bolles at this point.

broncofan55555
broncofan55555

I think last year has shown us and exactly why the Dolphins were laughing at the Broncos for paying James a princely sum. They were not willing to pony up that amount to keep him around, and considering how valuable OTs are, that says a lot about how they valued James. When it comes to the free agent market, all that glitters is not necessarily gold. In many instances, it could well turn out to be fool's gold. Elway has bit all too often on fool's gold. Yes, and he has hit paydirt a lot too. He has snacked on sawdust as well as caviar. Hopefully James will not prove to be the sawdust version of things.

4 Replies

Broncos61
Broncos61

In game with Riders “James’ knee got run into by a reckless player who is known (and literally suspended for the year) for his dirty play. ” Lots of criticism for signing RT J. James b/c he is allegedly is injury prone. Before coming to Broncos he had only toe and finger injury, which sidelined him twice for 5-7 games each of two seasons . He played full 3 seasons.

broncobuckeyenomad
broncobuckeyenomad

@Broncos61 from an ESPN article "James is an example of the risk a team takes when it signs a player with some injury history. In his five seasons in Miami, James did not play more than eight games in back-to-back seasons. Including the three games he played for the Broncos in 2019, James has played 16, 7, 16, 8, 15 and 3 games over his six seasons." That's an injury prone player.... and while I can't find the reason, he didn't play week 17 of 2018 soooo technically that's only two full seasons...

frankmc
frankmc

3200000$ a snap hell of job not worth it to have him

Mike138
Mike138

Dolphins have let their entire team go....They could have traded him after 2018 but didn't.

Broncos61
Broncos61

In game with RidersJames’ knee got run into by a reckless player who is known (and literally suspended for the year) for his dirty play.!!!!!!! Anyone could be this player casualty.

Before coming to Broncos he had only toe and finger injury, which sidelined him twice for 5-7 games each of two seasons . He played full 3 seasons.

Broncos61
Broncos61

In game with Riders “James’ knee got run into by a reckless player who is known (and literally suspended for the year) for his dirty play. ” Lots of criticism for signing RT J. James b/c he is allegedly is injury prone. Before coming to Broncos he had only toe and finger injury, which sidelined him twice for 5-7 games each of two seasons . He played full 3 seasons.

Tommy108
Tommy108

Ive never seen these soft rumors corroborated. Didn't seem to bother Kuper, who was coaching James in Miami, and wanted to bring him to Denver.

Denverkewl
Denverkewl

Let's remember both he and Callahan were healthy and full go at the start of TC. So those decisions were pretty good to that point. Besides...what FAs aren't hurt at some point? I'm not sure I buy into injury prone...you listen to these guys and they really want to play...we'll see.

Steve Atwater 27
Steve Atwater 27

Torn ligaments, and then meniscus, doesn't sound like "no surgery needed" to me. Scar tissue doesn't heal, so i don't understand how it re injured. Sounds like he needs a clean up at the least (meniscus and frayed ligaments), or his pain won't go away.

RickyBobby_0815
RickyBobby_0815

Exactly, wouldn’t Kuper have been consulted before this signing.

Milehighmike
Milehighmike

James has fully lived up to his reputation - soft and an injury milker. Would love to see the MRI or other diagnostic showing he actually had torn ligaments.

frankmc
frankmc

only cost 320;000$ a snap


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