How close is KJ Hamler to being ready to play? ‘I’m dang near there’
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Monday afternoon, during a red-zone period, KJ Hamler caught a touchdown pass. In most instances, such a play wouldn’t be notable. It’s just practice.
But this was the third-year wide receiver’s first day of team-period work since he tore his ACL and injured his hip 11 months earlier.
Sure, a practice rep is not the point toward which Hamler pointed as he rehabbed over the months. But it marked another milestone in his recovery as he pushes to be ready for Week 1.
“I feel like I’m dang near there,” Hamler said. “I feel like I’m there. But just getting a feel for everything. I haven’t gone against anybody. I’m just going out there against PS2 [Pat Surtain II] and a lot of the other DBs — I haven’t seen that in a while.
“It wasn’t really nothing new to me. It was just getting back to where I started. Knee brace is annoying, but I’ve gotta wear it. That’s the only thing. But other than that, I’m moving good.”
Ah, the knee brace. It’s here to stay for this season. It’s a necessary evil.
“Yes, I’m going to wear it,” he said, adding a moment later, “That’s the last time I’m going to say it.”
The brace is necessary for an extra layer of stability. But what is also necessary is building confidence in the leg after the injuries — confidence to go full-tilt.
During Tuesday’s practice, Hamler had another test of confidence when he went up for a pass. He described it as the “one moment where I was a little worried.”
He came down fine.
“I was a little nervous; I ain’t gonna lie,” he said.
“[But] when I landed safely, I knew I was fine. You’ve just gotta get [past] those little goose bumps and those little fears,” Hamler added a moment later. “I try not to live in fear. It’s my second ACL, so I’ve been through this before. I already knew how the process was going to be.
“So, just going out there and doing what I need to do — and do what I’m capable of doing — makes me get back in the groove.”
So with that in mind, Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett hasn’t closed the door on KJ Hamler playing Saturday in the preseason finale against Minnesota.
“We’re trying to do it the right way,” Hackett said. “I think that as we continually talk to him, if he feels as though he needs those reps to get out there, we’ll definitely give those to him if he’s cleared and everything’s good.”
Not surprisingly, Hamler welcomed the notion of playing.
“Yeah, I’ll play,” Hamler said. “It’s nothing wrong with that. It’s football.”
Pressed when asked if he would like to play, Hamler said, “Yeah!”
“I don’t mind playing just to go out there and get a feel for it,” Hamler explained. “I’ve been doing team reps as well out here. That would be my first game since the injury happen.
“So, whatever Coach wants me to do, I’ll do it. I’m going to be excited if I play a little bit. I don’t know how long he wants me to play — or if he even wants me to play — but if he does, it’s fine.”
That works for Hackett.
“I’m hoping we see him out there a little bit,” Hackett said.
And if Hamler plays, that’s another hurdle cleared — just like the ones he jumped over Monday and Tuesday.