Jamaal Charles could not be more excited to be a Denver Bronco – which is no small feat for a player who spent his previous nine years playing for a major AFC West rival.
But this is not a new love for the team who is giving him a second chance.
It’s the opportunity to play on the team run by Charles’ childhood football idol – John Elway.
And after “being fired” by the Chiefs, Charles doesn’t even care that Chiefs fans seem jaded by the Elway love.
“I’ve wanted to be a Bronco since I was a little kid when I looked up to John Elway and saw how he carries his team and Terrell Davis at running back. That inspired me as a little kid,” Charles said, noting the past is the past where the Chiefs are concerned. “I’m just excited to be a Bronco right now, so I’m not really caring about what people think. I was fired.”
But there is still an adjustment after being a Chief for nine years, Charles admitted.
“One time they were about to break down the huddle and I was about to say, ‘Chiefs,’” he said. “It’s just something to get used to. I’m happy to be here. It’s going to take some time, but I already feel like [that part] is over with. It’s all about seeing the colors now—blue, orange and white. I’m excited to be in the nice uniform.”
About to begin his 10th-year as a pro running back, Charles knows his role with this team is different – and he is totally fine with that.
Competing with Broncos’ current top backs – C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker – while also doing all he can to make them better is motivating Charles to be the best he can even in the twilight of his pro career.
“I want to turn Booker into a Pro-Bowl running back when I leave here, and turn C.J. into an All-Pro,” Charles said. “I just want to come in here and just bring the energy and the experience.”
That “experience” is damn impressive – as Broncos fans know all too well. A four-time Pro-Bowler, Charles holds the NFL record for average rushing yards per carry among running backs at 5.5. In 2009, he was the league’s top per carry running back with a whopping 5.9 yards/carry, and in 2013, Charles led the league (with Marshawn Lynch) in rushing touchdowns at 12.
Charles pointed out there’s an exchange of knowledge between the running backs, especially with Anderson’s experience with the offense, but he’s definitely trying to help the entire RB unit.
“With me, I don’t try to be selfish. I’m just trying to help everyone be successful. That’s what everybody in the world should be doing, just trying to make each other better. That’s what I’ve tried to do with my teammates,” Charles said. “Every time I touch the ball, I put it in their mind you want to get six yards. Just trying to leave them here with good examples and experience.”
Charles made it a regular practice torching Broncos’ defenses with that yards-per-carry stat whenever the rivals met – which is why Broncos Country is excited to see what the running back can do, no matter how limited a role.
But Charles sees plenty of opportunities in this Mike McCoy-designed offense for his attributes.
“[McCoy] has a lot of opportunities to put his players in the best opportunities. I’m happy to be a part of that, to put me in space, to put me in at wide receiver, to catch the ball out of the backfield and even run the ball between the tackles,” Charles said Monday after practice. “I’m excited about what his offense brings to the Broncos.”
Charles has not been participating in OTAs with the offense, but he has been working, and his progress seems to be right on track.
“I’m feeling good. I feel like I can do OTAs, but there is no need to do OTAs. It’s not like we’re about to go out there and play a game. It’s just being more careful,” said the running back who played just eight games total the last two seasons due to knee injury. “I’d rather do that in training camp when it’s time to come. Right now, I’m just doing whatever the trainers are telling me to do.”
Head coach Vance Joseph said the 30-year-old veteran is looking good, but the timeframe is still training camp for participation.
“He’s made great progress as far as his rehab. He came here, his quad was really weak. Now, it’s gotten stronger,” Joseph said Monday. “He’s running hills. He’s with [Assistant Head Coach/Running Backs] Eric [Studesville] with a couple individual drills, so he’s getting closer.”
And don’t think for a minute Charles is just planning on being a backup. He’s a competitor and has the mindset of a starter.
“Why would I not think I’m going to be the man? You think I just want to come in here and be like—that’s never been me in my whole life,” Charles said, adding if he didn’t have the mentality to start, he should just sit at home. “My whole life, I’ve always felt like I’m going to the be the man.”
Can Jamaal Charles 'be the man' for the running game?
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