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Payton: Patrick Surtain II Will be 'Ready' if Needed as Punt Returner

PS2 could pull double duty for Denver.

Last year, then-Denver Broncos special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes derided the notion of using star cornerback Patrick Surtain II on punt returns, calling it "idiotic."

This year, it doesn't sound so idiotic. In fact, the idea is being embraced by new head coach Sean Payton, who teased the possibility of double duty for Surtain.

“All of these guys are going to have roles," Payton said Tuesday following the start of Denver's mandatory minicamp. "You start asking questions, and you start getting answers. He did it in high school. I want to know who we are going to if [Option 1] isn’t ready. There are 53 on your roster and 47 on gameday. If I need a gunner taken out of the game, then who better to do that than [CB] Patrick [Surtain II]. That’s what he does for a living. It’s not just offense go over here; defense go over here, and the kicking game go over here. I watched [Pro Football Hall of Fame OLB] Lawrence Taylor in a game with the Giants where they were winning and the team they were playing, came back with a couple of kick returns. I watched Lawrence Taylor remove about five guys on the kick coverage unit and brought defensive players out, lined them up and covered a kick. That’s when you have something. These are snaps. There are snaps in a game that are valuable. If Surtain can help us as a returner when needed, then we’ll have him ready.”

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Surtain not only handled zero punts in 2022, but he played only 11 special-teams snaps — compared to 1,106 on defense — across all 17 games. For fear of injury, the previous regime was steadfast in keeping him away from the third side of the ball.

This regime is different; more exploratory. Research shows, as Payton noted, that Surtain tallied five punt returns during his 2016 junior campaign at American Heritage High School in Florida. He averaged 13.4 yards per return, one of which went for 40.

So the experience is there, even if the need isn't. Yet.

Until and unless that time comes, however, Surtain will continue his primary objective: shutting down opposing wide receivers like the All-Pro he is.

And likely leaving the special teams role to second-round rookie WR Marvin Mims, whom Denver drafted, in part, due to his elite return ability.

“Every year, you look at the return game and try to find who do we feel is the best punt returner in college football and who do we feel is the second best. We felt like there were two elite punt returners," Payton said in his post-draft press conference. "The young man from Houston (WR Tank Dell) who got drafted. You saw it. This was another."

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