ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — On a Broncos team full of young talent, Denver's veterans will still lead the way.
The Broncos voted last week on their season-long team captains, and Head Coach Vic Fangio announced Monday that outside linebacker Von Miller, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, safeties Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson, wide receiver Courtland Sutton and kicker Brandon McManus earned the honor.
Sutton, a fourth-year player, is the youngest of the group, and four of the six players are in at least their eighth year in the NFL.
For the first time during Fangio's tenure, the Broncos will have season-long captains rather than game-by-game representatives.
"I just thought this would be something good to do for a multitude of reasons, so we'll give it a shot," Fangio said.
And while the six players would have served as leaders even without a "C" on their chest, Simmons acknowledged it meant a bit more to be officially recognized.
"It's honestly something that I've thought about for the past couple years," Simmons said. "… I think it means more too because it comes from your peers. … You know, guys step into leadership roles and you can kind of feel like, 'OK, I'm a leader on this team. I know what I have to do. I know what's expected.' But to have it, like, kind of written in stone, it just, it makes it a little bit more real and it's an honor. It's truly an honor, and I'm excited for this year."
Sutton agreed with Simmons' assessment, and he said the honor would help him continue to push himself to lead his teammates to new heights. Sutton has noticed that same approach from Bridgewater, who was the lone player to be named a captain in his first year with the team.
"He's always trying to coach up everybody, whether it's offensive line, tight ends, running backs, receivers, whoever it may be," Sutton said. "He's always trying to pass the knowledge down. That's always appreciated. And just the way he carries himself. You know, a lot of people think that being named a captain is all straight from on-the-field stuff but it's a lot of off-the-field stuff that goes into it, as well. Teddy's just that guy that he carries himself as a leader, as somebody who guys want to look up to and guys want to imitate. That's what you look for in good leaders."
Perhaps the best sign that the Broncos have chosen the right players to lead the way is their willingness to rise to expectations.
"Honestly … as one of the leaders on this team, I want to be placed in that position," Simmons said. "You know that's where greatness happens, is when you're put in a tough position and then you find ways — not individually but as a team, as a collective team — you find ways to persevere and push through, and then eventually make things happen. That's all anyone cares about. No one really cares about the details of how it happens, as long as it happens. I can speak for most of the guys on the team saying we want to be the team that kind of turns this whole thing around and kind of get [the team] back to where the Broncos have always been."
SUTTON'S KNEE RESPONDS
As Sutton nears his return to the field, it could be the aftermath of the Rams game that is most reassuring. After Sutton played 18 snaps against Los Angeles, his surgically reconstructed knee held up well in the days after the game.
"I gained a lot of confidence," Sutton said. "Man, the leg felt really, really ... good. And the day after, I didn't know what to expect but going through a little bit of game play that I had and then the warm-up and everything, you know, the leg felt really really good. … The body feels good. Like I said, I didn't know what to expect after the game, but it felt good."
Sutton won't mess with his routine, as he said he'll continue to wear a knee brace as the team enters the regular season.
'HE'S EARNED THAT TRUST'
Javonte Williams is just a rookie, but Fangio said the coaching staff has faith in the second-round pick at any moment.
"He's earned that trust, and we're not at all against playing him in any situation, in any time of the game," Fangio said.
Fangio noted that it varies "from person to person" whether a rookie can earn that kind of trust and role, and he invoked a recently enshrined Hall of Famer as an example.
"I've been around them that can do that," Fangio said. "I remember being around Edgerrin James when he was a rookie. He was lights out right from Day 1."