ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Broncos fullback Michael Burton eschewed the glory of the running back position for the grind of fullback duties when he converted to the position in college.
Even as a Super Bowl champion and established NFL starter, his favorite plays still include him paving the way for his teammates' highlights.
"The perfect fullback play is a block where you either kick out a linebacker, kick out a defensive end, whoever it may be, and the running back scores a touchdown," Burton said after Tuesday's training camp practice. "Just doing that dirty work, that's the most exciting thing."
Along with his love for the physicality and nuances of blocking, Burton says versatility is paramount to carving out a role on an NFL roster at a time when many teams are opting to play without a fullback.
"I think it's obviously a really important position, but versatility really comes with that position," Burton said. "You've got to be able to be a guy who can run the ball, catch the ball, run block [and] pass protect, as well as play special teams and be a four core guy and pick up extra snaps. I take pride in playing the fullback position as well as being a four-core special teams player."
Burton comes to Denver immediately after winning Super Bowl LVII with the Kansas City Chiefs, but he also has experience contributing to Head Coach Sean Payton's offense as a member of the New Orleans Saints in 2020. According to Burton, Payton also appreciates the versatility that a fullback can bring to both the offensive and special team units.
"You've got to be a guy who can go out there and do different things," Burton said. "If you go out in '21' personnel, you're not just running the ball. Maybe you can line up wide, you can line a guy up, he can run routes, he can catch a ball, so you're not giving the defense a cue — it's not automatically a run. And then a guy who can play special teams, who can pick up 12, 15, 18 snaps on special teams is very, very valuable. So I think it's the versatile thing that [Payton] values the best."
Even with offenses evolving in favor of high-powered passing attacks and trending away from the run-first, hard-nosed approach that made the fullback position a necessity in the past, fullbacks such as Burton and San Francisco 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk are proving that they can still hold an important place in the modern game. It's a mission that they're on together, according to Burton.
"It's a small group, so we like to stay in touch, whether we talk through social media, via text and stuff like that," Burton said. "We're always looking after each other and talking to each other postgame, seeing how we're doing and that type of stuff."
COOPER DETAILS DECISION TO SWITCH TO NO. 0
Updates to league rules have given teams more flexibility and options with uniform decisions, and the Broncos have taken full advantage. This offseason, the Broncos unveiled their alternate 'Snowcapped' helmets, while on an individual scale, outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper made the decision to switch his number to zero.
Cooper joins NFL stars such as Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Roquan Smith, Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Brian Burns and Philadelphia Eagles running back D'Andre Swift in adopting the digit, but his reason for wearing the No. 0 dates back to his college days at Ohio State. Cooper became one of the first Ohio State players honored with the opportunity to wear the "Block O" jersey in his senior season, and he enjoyed his best season as a Buckeye while in No. 0.
"It means a lot to me," Cooper said. "Like I've said a lot of times before, Ohio State gave me [No.] 0 and ever since then, I've feel like I've [taken] that with pride. That's the same thing that I'm trying to do here."
The number zero jersey — which players can wear for the first time since 1972 — became a coveted commodity around Denver's facility as soon as it became a possibility earlier this offseason, and Cooper is thankful with the final outcome.
"There was a little bit of conversations going around, a little bit of talk here and there about who wanted it and stuff like that," Cooper said. "But ultimately I came away with it, so we're all good."
After wearing No. 53 in his first two seasons with the Broncos, Cooper will debut the slimmer number this season. He's also looking to bring more explosiveness to the pass rush and make his impact felt in the trenches after a diligent approach this offseason.
"Just working on my explosiveness, I feel like being more confident as a pass rusher, really honing into what I do well," Cooper said of his focus. "After having those first two years under my belt, I feel like I've finally got the experience to figure out what it is that I do well on the reps that I went on and to just improve on those things. I definitely want to make sure that I'm that game-changing pass rusher that I'm trying to [be for] the Broncos."