BRONCOS

Hamler returns from a “dark place” to potentially a big role with Broncos

May 12, 2022, 6:44 AM
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 19: K.J. Hamler #1 of the Denver Broncos lines up during the game...
(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

We were back out at UC Health Training Center on Wednesday for a couple of player interviews as offseason workouts continue for the Denver Broncos. At the podium, the Broncos brought out cornerback Ronald Darby and wide receiver K.J. Hamler to talk to the media. Darby is a starter who could be in the final year with the team, while Hamler is coming back from a major injury and wants to showcase his ability on offense – even though he’s buried on the depth chart.

The team is getting used to their new quarterback and new coaching staff, and according to every player we’ve talked to “energy” is the first word that comes up when asked about the changes. In fact, it was one of Darby’s first answers when the E-word came up.

“We got a new coaching staff, but a lot of our concepts are the same. I feel a lot more comfortable. They bring a lot of energy.” Darby said.

Here are the three biggest takeaways from the Wednesday press conferences – and a bonus fourth takeaway because it was a robust presser!

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Not Just a Knee Repair

Hamler confirmed that his knee wasn’t the only thing that was surgically repaired. In addition to repairing his ACL, Hamler had to undergo surgery to repair a dislocated hip. He stated at this press conference that his hip did pop out of socket.

Coming back from a knee injury is difficult enough – and Hamler had to do that already from a knee injury he suffered in high school. With the Broncos, Hamler believes his recovery has been better – with improved technology and better facilities during the recovery process.

The third-year pro should be able to regain his speed, even coming back from both knee and hip surgeries. Hamler says that he expects to be ready for the start of training camp, and that puts him ahead of others who need about a year to fully recover from a knee injury. I’m sure the Broncos will be monitoring him closely during camp, so he may have to be ramped up as the month of August rolls on.

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Getting Out of a Dark Place

Hamler was quite honest when talking about his recovery and the process of getting back on the field while coming out of a dark place. He talked about how being around his teammates is giving him positive energy, and how it was difficult being away from the team during the recovery process.

When a player is hurt, they’re still a part of the team but they’re not around the team for meetings and workouts as they spend more time with the trainers. That can lead to feelings of isolation, and some players struggle with that. In fact, I could guess that many players going through that have a hard time with being apart from their teammates – even though they’re in the same building.

The best players – and the best people – I know had to come through adversity, and Hamler clearly has been on that path. Not only was he returning from injury, but Hamler also lost his grandmother and had to go through the mourning process. He said it was good to have teammates like Courtland Sutton there to help him out, and his mother helped him deal with the grief of losing a loved one. I am absolutely rooting for Hamler because of his desire to be great and his strength when working through life’s adversities.

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Tyler Lockett Role

One of the most exciting things Hamler talked about was his potential role in the Broncos high-powered passing game – and his connection with Wilson. Hamler says that he sees himself playing a “Tyler Lockett-like” role for the Broncos offense. That’s a tremendous statement because Lockett is one of the best receivers in the game.

I loved Lockett when he came into the NFL, and when I watched him at the Senior Bowl in 2015, I felt he could play like Antonio Brown in this league. Lockett was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the third round that year, and it didn’t take him long to become one of Wilson’s favorite targets. Two years ago, Lockett had 100 catches for Seattle and last year he set a career high with 1,175 receiving yards. If Hamler could perform like that it would be fantastic.

I don’t think Hamler is quite the player Lockett was – at Kansas State or in the NFL – but I can see how the role could be similar when Hamler gets on the field for the Broncos this year. He’s currently No. 4 on the depth chart with the Broncos – and that’s just at the wide receiver position. Add in a tight end or two, a running back or two (as receivers) and you can see how there may not be that many passes thrown Hamler’s way – no matter his role. Those predicting a “breakout” season need to pump their brakes. It has nothing to do with talent, but it has everything to do with opportunity which Hamler may not get with only one football to go around.

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High Expectations

I have high expectations for the Broncos in 2022. It’s something I wrote about in my “Mile High Monday” column this week on DenverFan.com. I think it’s okay to say “Super Bowl” and “Broncos” in the same sentence again. Apparently, Darby agrees with me. Even though he didn’t go as far as saying that verbatim, Darby did admit that they do have the team to compete for a championship.

I don’t think the Broncos need to roll around shouting “Super Bowl!” at the top of their lungs, but it’s great they believe in themselves behind the scenes. It’s a confidence that all champions need to have, and Darby knows what it takes to win it all. When he was with the Philadelphia Eagles he was key member of their defense when they beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. Things were down for the Broncos, Darby’s first year with the team, but he knows things are trending in the right direction in 2022.

I’m glad the team is taking on this mentality of dealing with high expectations from the jump. The saying goes “what you think about, you bring about” and the Broncos are thinking about a championship. With Wilson around, apparently wearing his football pants wherever he goes, the Broncos have the mentality of a grinder. They’re not afraid to work, and the new coaching staff is getting all players excited about what’s to come.

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Hamler returns from a “dark place” to potentially a big role with Broncos