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Bruton Filling Special-Teams Niche

Posted Mar 11, 2013

David Bruton could be following in the footsteps of former Bronco Keith Burns -- a player who makes a lengthy career out of special teams.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- David Bruton might push for playing time, and could see some action as a sixth defensive back for the Broncos if they use him the way they utilized Jim Leonhard during the 2012 season.

But he re-signed with the Broncos as a special-teamer first, and he's comfortable with filling that niche. He's also a realist, and knows that the job description elsewhere would likely be the same as it was in Denver -- and without the advantage of being around coaches and administrators who know his skill set and teammates who value his leadership.

"I'm able to sleep easier now not having to worry about where I could potentially go," Bruton said, "because the other places -- they don't really know me well, so you're starting basically from ground zero and build your way up in that trust."

Sure, every player dreams of being a starter, a Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl winner. But the ones who often end up enduring the longest -- beyond the uber-superstars of the league -- are the ones who readily accept and embrace a role that might not generate headlines, but does help the team as a collective.

Even if Bruton never pushes for a starting job again and remains a steady defensive backup, special teams is a ticket to a long career, if used properly. That's how Keith Burns endured on the roster for the better part of 11 seasons in three stints with the Broncos. 

Burns left twice in free agency -- once to Chicago in 1999, then to Tampa Bay in 2004 -- but in both cases, returned a year later and resumed his role on most of the Broncos' special-teams units -- which included emotional leadership for the group until he retired from playing after the 2006 season.

Burns then helped coach the special teams for six years -- where he passed on what he learned before moving up to become Washington's lead special-teams coach last month.

"He was a great guy, a great coach. He definitely taught me a lot about special teams," Bruton said. "He constantly would give me crap about being a special-teams guy; he always would give guys crap, but he was a great guy who helped me grow as a special-teamer and as a team player."

It appears that Bruton is Burns' successor as the centerpiece of the Broncos' coverage units -- which could be a ticket to a prosperous and long NFL stint.

"I'm looking forward to having a lengthy career, whether it's special teams or defense, whatever opportunity I get. That will help me in the long run, not having to scramble for a job," Bruton said.