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Jake Butt talks candidly about protests, coming together as a team, improving on offense

The third-year tight end talked with Ryan Edwards and Benjamin Allbright about the state of the team and locker room amidst the ‘challenging’ times.

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Seattle Seahawks v Denver Broncos Photo by Bart Young/Getty Images

Jake Butt joined Ryan Edwards and Benjamin Allbright on Broncos Country Tonight Tuesday, and when they asked how things are going in the offseason, the tight end had a very honest response - “It’s a loaded question.”

He’s not wrong, as players have been dealing with the coronavirus quarantine mandates preventing regular offseason workouts and team meetings and now are also involved on different levels in the conversations about the protesting happening around the country related to the death of George Floyd.

Several Broncos players have been vocal on social media, and a few - Justin Simmons in particular - have been vocal in their communities about the need for societal change.

Broncos CEO Joe Ellis actually addressed the team yesterday and opened the floor to other players to talk as well.

Butt said the meeting was “productive” and elaborated on how these “challenging times” signal a strong need for societal change and that the protests were/are necessary.

“Obviously there a lot of things going on in the country and the world and it’s challenging times, but I fully believe in the goodness of humanity and fully believe good things will come from this...The innocent murders have to stop,” he said. “A football team is the prime example that shows people of all different backgrounds, economical backgrounds, races, different upbringings coming together for a common goal. It can be done but we’ve got to go out there and make it happen and do something together as a country.”

Butt added that because of the quarantine and inability to be “face-to-face” with teammates, it’s harder to gauge the pulse of the team, but he sees the Broncos locker room as a safe place for teammates to have the tough conversations.

“The dialogue is still very fresh ... and I think tough conversations are going to need to be had, but we have guys willing to have these tough conversations,” he said, adding that the next step is problem solving. “It’s about progress and taking the next step to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The conversations are ongoing, but we do need to have them.”

Edwards asked Butt about Vic Fangio’s much-talked-about quote regarding not having racism in the NFL:

“I think our problems in the NFL along those lines are minimal. We’re a league of meritocracy. You earn what you get, you get what you earn. I don’t see racism at all in the NFL. I don’t see discrimination in the NFL,” Fangio said. “We live in a great atmosphere. Like I alluded to earlier, we’re lucky. We all live together joined as one for one common goal, and we all intermingle and mix tremendously. If society reflected an NFL team, we’d all be great.”

Fangio has been criticized widely today for his comment yesterday saying that racism doesn’t exist, and I personally think the criticism is fair for the words on their face, but I truly believe that what Fangio was referring to was not so much the NFL at large - which has absolutely dealt with discrimination and racism, and continues to do so - but rather his experience as a coach with players in the locker room.

And Butt interpreted his experience as a football player much the same way.

“Here’s the thing - playing football for most guys, we’re exposed to different people with different views and different upbringings a little bit sooner. You’re exposed to it, but It doesn’t mean those problems aren’t going on outside the locker room,” he said, adding that the goal is to apply that kind of team unity to an entire society. “We’re able to do it, but the question is how can we do this on a nationwide basis? How can we ensure that George Floyd’s death is going to push forward policy and push forward standards that are going to be upheld, and accountability across our country to make sure things like this aren’t going to happen again.”

The hosts and their guest did get around to football, and the tight end who has yet to really see a season on the field is really hoping to get out there soon.

He’s feeling healthy and ready to compete.

“I’m excited to get out there and play ball again, get back to playing sports, being part of a team, working with teammates and coaches,” he said, adding that the crowded and talented tight end room doesn’t bother him. “It doesn’t change anything about my approach. I’m not going to work harder; I was going to work hard anyway. I’m not going to play harder; I was going to play 100 percent anyway. It’s on us as individuals to compete. That will force everybody to raise their level of focus, preparation and execution on the field.”

Although this will be Butt’s third offensive system and it will be implemented with a very young offense, he and his fellow offensive players don’t really consider the locker room “young” because many mature leaders have emerged.

“We’re young, but that’s not an excuse,” he said, noting that both Courtland Sutton and Dalton Risner could be considered “young” but both have emerged as great leaders - as has the second-year quarterback. “Youth is just a number, but how you show up, how you prepare, how you work in the offseason, how you lead and show up for teammates and coaches shows maturity and that’s what we’re after here. You can have a young but mature locker room and that can be really good for teams.”

That “young-but-mature” mojo seems to be coming from Drew Lock as well.

“Drew sets the bar higher for himself than any of us, but the expectation is to take the next step. And it’s not just for Drew, it’s for the entire offense,” Butt said, noting there are “weapons all around” to make that happen. “Drew got his feet wet last year and he’s done a great job taking on the leader role in the offseason. ...The defense has been pretty reliable the last few years and for us on the offense, we want to step up and be a complete team for 16 weeks this year and put our name in the playoffs.”