ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Randy Gregory is back.
And he may be better than before.
Following offseason surgery on his shoulder, Gregory said he "definitely" can tell the difference after multiple seasons of playing through pain.
"It was something I've been dealing with for two, maybe three years now," Gregory said Monday after being cleared to return to practice. "[I] got to the point where it was kind of hindering my play. Definitely think it was something important to do [for the] long term for the team. Got that taken care of. I'm glad that it's in the past. I'm still working through some kinks but should be good to go."
Gregory said he can now do a number of things on the football field that he could not do ahead of the surgery. Before the procedure, Gregory said he was limited to below the level of even a group of sports writers.
"There's a lot of things I couldn't do that normally you guys should be able to do," Gregory said. "Going out there and playing on it like that has been kind of tough, but I'm a fighter. I tried to fight through it, but it got to a point where we really had to take care of that.
"The mobility aspect of it — just the range of motion — has probably been the biggest thing. Striking, I've been able to do that. Ripping, things like that. Just getting on the field and being able to work those moves out is kind of something that's up in the air. [I] feel very confident about it, but it's just something I haven't done in a few months."
Gregory said he plans to play Week 1, but he noted that he'll need to get used to engaging with offensive linemen again before he feels ready.
"We're not tussling with a 200-pound training staff guy," Gregory said. "We're going against the best in the world. Just getting my feet wet in that sense and being able to tussle with those guys. That's something that, like I said, I feel confident in. It's just something I haven't done in a few months, and I think today will be a big step in that direction."
When he's back on the field, Gregory should be a problem for opposing offenses. As Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett and the offensive staff prepared for the preseason opener, they were struck by Gregory's play for the Cowboys.
"We put a game on just because we wanted to watch and make sure we knew what they were going to be presenting us," Hackett said. "The whole time, it was funny, we were all looking at each other going, 'Oh, I'm really happy that guy's on our team.' He's a dynamic guy. He's got unbelievable motor. He is non-stop all throughout the play. He's physical, he's fast, he's a smart player. I think all of those things that he brings are so great for our football team, and watching him rush the edge is going to be something I'm excited to see."
Gregory tied a career high with six sacks and three forced fumbles last year, and he added 17 quarterback hits.
With a newly repaired shoulder, Gregory could find even more success in 2022.
As offensive lineman Billy Turner also works his way back from an offseason procedure, he said the next four weeks will be used to prepare him to play an entire football game. That task is one that is both mental and physical, as he gets used to the Broncos' specific scheme and works his way back into playing shape. While Turner formerly played in a similar offense, he cautioned against the notion that the transition would be without its challenges.
"It should help a lot, but with that being said, every offense, it doesn't matter if it's the same scheme or if you have similar [or] the same coaches," Turner said. "When you have different quarterbacks, things are just different. Whether it be the cadence, whether it be different concepts that he might want to run more of. It'll probably help me, yes. But at the same time, there's definitely going to be a learning curve that I'm going to have to get over just playing with a different quarterback now."
As he works to learn the system, he may have to be prepared to play several different spots. The team lauded Turner's versatility when he was signed, and he said he was unsure where he would play along the line.
"I couldn't answer that for you," Turner said. "Every time I think I'm playing one position, I end up at another. There is time [to practice at several spots]. I can go and play any of those positions kind of at the drop of a hat. That's kind of how my career has been. More than anything, it's just going to be getting back on the field, getting a feel for the tempo, the movement, the timing of everything. Once I kind of get that back, it doesn't really matter what position I'm at."
Wherever he plays, the Broncos will surely be glad to have him back in the fold.
MATHIS' FIRST REPS
Rookie cornerback Damarri Mathis earned the start in his first preseason appearance, and he said the game felt slow enough for him after working against the Broncos' group of talented receivers.
Mathis, who posted an impressive training camp, recorded three tackles in his debut. On one of the stops, Mathis made an open-field tackle of Dallas' Aaron Shampklin, who would have had room to run along the right sideline if the Denver cornerback didn't pull him down.
"[It] just felt good [getting] the first game out of the way," Mathis said. "I was not nervous, but I was a little antsy out there, just getting out there, slowing my feet down, playing my technique and just trusting everything that my coach prepared me for. It was a good experience out there."