ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Entering his 17th year as a Denver Bronco, Assistant Special Teams Coach Keith Burns has been with the franchise longer than any other coach on the staff.
Burns, who played 11 seasons for the club and is entering his sixth as a coach, was a key member of the Broncos’ teams that won Super Bowl XXXII in 1997 and XXXIII in 1998.
During his playing career with the Broncos from 1994-98, 2000-03 and ‘05-06, Burns led the team or tied for its season high in special-teams tackles seven times and totaled 186 special-teams stops in 166 career games (3 starts) with the club
That translated into a special teams coaching position, where he along with Special Teams Coordinator Jeff Rodgers helped the unit improve from No. 26 in the Dallas Morning News’ 2010 special teams rankings to No. 10—a jump that represented the second-largest improvement in the league.
Burns took the time to talk to DenverBroncos.com about why OTAs are so important to special teams, how being a former player helps him as a coach, and what it's been like being involved with the Broncos for 16 years.
What it is like to have worked for the organization as both a player and a coach?
“The organization itself is second to none. I think that’s from the top to the bottom, from (Broncos Owner and CEO) Mr. Bowlen to the janitor. Having been around this organization, there’s no comparison. I’ve always loved the fans here, even in my playing days. Just the respect that they have for the game and the enthusiasm that they bring to the stadium on Sunday. The way this organization is run is second to none. That’s one of the reasons why I’m still here. For me, there is no other organization.”
What is it like working with Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway after playing with him?
“It’s great, even from day one when I knew he was coming back. You look at his competitiveness, he brings that to the table alongside of his personnel and his insight. He got a lot of that from his dad. He’s always been around footall. It’s in his blood to be around football. That’s just another added dimension that he brings to the organization. Everybody knows his competitiveness as far as wanting to win. If any organization can have a guy like that on their staff, we’re blessed. He has taken the bull by the horn. Starting with (Head Coach John) Fox and getting the staff together, things are getting back to the way that they used to be when John was playing.”
What is it like to be coaching special teams on a staff that includes Linebackers Coach Richard Smith, who was your special teams coach for the Broncos?
“It is ironic for my first special teams coach to be back, now coaching for the Denver Broncos. It is funny, but he taught me a lot. I learned a lot from him. I can always lean back on him if I have any questions. Between me and Jeff, if we don’t feel comfortable or have a good idea of it, he’s always another guy on the staff that we can always lean to because he has been in our shoes. It’s always good but him being on the staff just lets you know how long I’ve been around. I wouldn’t say that it makes me feel old but I can say that I have basically come full circle.”
Why are OTAs and minicamps so important to special teams?
“It’s always different when you have so many new guys. That’s the difference between offense, defense, you have your regular guys coming back, most of your starters coming back and you have to plug in a new guy here and there. But with special teams, the turnover is so overwhelming, number-wise, you have to try to get that continuity early. It’s all about getting the guys to understand the system we’re trying to install. I think having the OTAs that we’ve had allows us to do that and try to get the young guys up to breast in a hurry to be able to be successful and have an opportunity to make the team.”
How does your experience of playing on special teams in the NFL help you as a coach?
“Special teams is pretty much where I hung my hat. So I try to get to know all of the young guys and give them a tidbit here and there just to keep them into the game. It’s always good for them to know just as much as I know thinking they’ll be able to help themselves when they get out there."