In the blink of an eye, Kenny Young went from starting for the 6-1 Los Angeles Rams, they of Super Bowl aspirations, to being foisted upon the 3-4 Denver Broncos, they of four straight losses.
While the dust may have settled on the trade that rocked Young's world, its aftereffects remain. And, as strongly intimated during Wednesday's introductory press conference, he's nowhere near the acceptance stage.
“It had nothing to do with my on-the-field ability or anything like that," Young explained to reporters. "I think what it was is I was playing well but the way the cap was structured, they needed to take some money off my deal to really get some guys off other areas up and ready to go. That’s what it was about. It was about finances. It’s something weird for me. I’ve never heard or experienced that, but it makes sense what they did. I’m not cool with it, but I have to respect it because they had no other choice.”
A 2018 fourth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens, Young signed a four-year, $3.09 million rookie contract which expires after this season. The Rams saved roughly $1.3 million in salary-cap space — the cost of his base salary — by dealing Young to Denver.
The move was put into motion hours after Young notched seven tackles (three solo), one tackle for loss, one sack, and a quarterback hit amid Los Angeles' Week 7 victory over Detroit.
“I mean, at the time we were on a run," Young said of the timing of his departure. "I played a very good game and it just was confusing for me for a second, but I think they just had to deal with cap space with the finances. There’s really nothing that they could have done about it or I could have done about it. It’s a weird situation.”
Even weirder were the circumstances that prompted Young's acquisition, after the Broncos lost starting ILBs Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell to season-ending pectoral injuries and backups Jonas Griffith and Micah Kiser to injured reserve. The team was whittled down to Justin Strnad, Baron Browning, Curtis Robinson, and Barrington Wade at the position.
A rangy defender with sideline-to-sideline ability and familiarity in Vic Fangio's system, Young should see immediate (and perhaps significant) playing time in Sunday's home contest against Washington.
“He’s already a special player," Broncos safety Justin Simmons said Wednesday. "Anyone that’s paid attention to the Rams defense knows that he flies around, and he makes plays. For guys like [S] Kareem [Jackson] and myself, we’ve just got to find ways to make it as seamless a transition as possible. Coming from the Rams to playing here and finding a way to—I talk about all the time about communication. What are you comfortable with? How do you like to do things? How do you see these things? By no means [will it] be an easy task, but nothing is."
Physically, Young is more than capable of embracing the task. Emotionally, it doesn't sound like the 26-year-old wants to. But he has to.
That's what he's telling himself — convincing himself — aloud, anyway.
“In this situation I’m thrown in I can’t put too much pressure on myself with the record, right. It doesn’t really matter," Young said. "I think what matters most is like I said, taking it one day at a time. We’ve got like 10 or 11 games left. I’ve got to do everything I can on my part to feel comfortable and work with the coaches as much as I can to try to get caught up and get things going. I’m just working on getting better today in practice if I get reps today. I’m just learning and soaking up. I think that’s a big part about this week is just soaking up so much. It’s tough when you come off of a trade because it’s like, ‘What the heck?’ It’s a part of being a pro, a part of changing, and a part of adapting [because] this game is always changing. Things always happen suddenly so I think I’ll be fine. I’ve played enough ball. I’m pretty comfortable in my preparation and my process to get me going but like I said, I’m only focused on today.”
Follow Zack on Twitter @KelbermanNFL
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