ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos' signing of outside linebacker Frank Clark became official on Tuesday, and Broncos Head Coach Sean Payton said he believes it's difficult to find players with Clark's rushing ability.
"[He is] a pressure player and someone that I remember doing a lot of work on when he was coming out in the draft," Payton said. "We followed him, obviously, in Seattle first and then in Kansas City. It's one of the areas that we paid close attention to. We'll find a role within what we are doing and where he can help us. I think it's always a challenge to find those guys who you can say are pressure players, but he is one of them. Certainly, he's excelled in the postseason, both in Seattle and in Kansas City. That's the vision."
Clark's 13.5 career postseason sacks rank first among active players and are third in NFL history.
The Michigan product will play at outside linebacker for the Broncos, and his signing came in part due to an injury to Baron Browning.
"Obviously, he is someone who will start the season on PUP [Physically Unable to Perform list]," Payton said of Browning. "Outside of that, I think that had a little bit to do with [signing Clark], and that's part of the deal."
Clark will join the Broncos at the start of training camp, according to Payton.
"We knew that going in," Payton said. "He has a ring ceremony [with Kansas City] coming up. That will be a little awkward. But anyway, it's good to have him joining us."
A NEW CONTRIBUTOR?
Asked about his work with Pat Surtain II during a special teams period, Payton acknowledged it was possible the All-Pro cornerback could field punts for the Broncos in key situations.
"All of these guys are going to have roles," Payton said. "You start asking questions, and you start getting answers. He did it in high school. I want to know who we are going to if [Option 1] isn't ready. There are 53 [players] on your roster and 47 on game day. If I need a gunner taken out of the game, then who better to do that than Patrick. That's what he does for a living. It's not just, 'Offense, go over here; defense, go over here, and the kicking game, go over here.'"
Payton's philosophy is colored, in part, by watching Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor make a special teams impact during a critical moment.
"I watched Lawrence Taylor in a game with the Giants where they were winning and the team they were playing came back with a couple of kick returns," Payton said. "I watched Lawrence Taylor remove about five guys on the kick coverage unit and brought defensive players out, lined them up and covered a kick. That's when you have something. These are snaps. There are snaps in a game that are valuable. If Surtain can help us as a returner when needed, then we'll have him ready."
REMEMBERING JIM TURNER
A day after the Broncos remembered the life and career of Ring of Fame kicker Jim Turner, Payton and his team engaged in a special remembrance.
Near the end of practice, Payton had his team kick a pair of nine-yard field goals in honor of Turner's conversion in a Super Bowl III upset of the Jets. When the goal posts were at the goal line, it allowed for much shorter field goals — and the Broncos replicated that sort of kick on Tuesday.
Payton also instructed his kickers — Elliott Fry and tryout player Randy Bullock — to kick straight on, rather than with the more prevalent soccer-style kick.
"[Turner played] nine years here," Payton said. "[He made] three field goals in the Super Bowl [III] win against the Jets. He was a kicker for us for our first Super Bowl, and then he did something that will never be done again. He kicked a nine-yard field goal. Obviously, the uprights were at the goal line then. We made the kickers today kick straight on, and we spotted the ball nine yards deep in the end zone. When you actually look at that field goal, it's not an easy one to hit. In fact, all of the offensive linemen were worried about getting buried in the back. Both kickers had never kicked straight on, so they didn't have a squared toe [cleat]. That was just for them to recognize a little bit of the history here. That's a member of our Ring of Fame. He passed [away], and we were fortunately 2-for-2. In fact, we looked a little better kicking straight on then we did with the soccer style attempts. It was just in honor of him."
After the Broncos tied for the third-most penalties enforced against them in 2022, playing cleaner football will be a big priority in the season ahead.
Payton had referees at Tuesday's practice, and the officials were too busy for his liking.
"[There were] too many flags on the ground for me today," Payton said. "It was good to have the officials here, and yet, we ran out of sand in some of the penalty flags, so they had to go get backup flags. Before you start figuring out how to win, you have to know how not to lose. Last year, we ranked — I don't even want to give it to you — … 29th in pre-snap fouls on both sides of the ball. That's going to change. It's good to have that pointed out. I like the way that they're practicing. I like the intensity. I like their effort, and I think they are working hard. But you also have to be smart. That would be one takeaway from today's practice."