ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – **C.J. Anderson remembers what it feels like to be confident as a rookie.
As an undrafted player out of Cal, he quickly convinced himself he belonged on an NFL roster and proved his point not long after.
In 2014, he became just the fifth undrafted running back to make a Pro Bowl. And his own success story explains why he's not concerned with Devontae Booker's comments at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere last weekend in Los Angeles. Booker said he wasn't in Denver to "carry pads" but rather to "take someone's job."
That confidence didn't seem to bother Anderson after Tuesday's practice.
"I mean, what do you want him to say?" Anderson said. "Y'all want him to say, 'Hey man, I'm going to sit behind C.J. and Ronnie. I'm here to be a backup'? Nah, I was fine with it. It didn't bother me at all. That's the competitive spirit of him. Like I said, if that's what motivates him, that's what's up."
When Coach Gary Kubiak was asked about the statement, he didn't strike down Booker's words, either. Instead, he reminded all rookies how much effort they would need to see the field.
"I would hope they're all here that way," Kubiak said. "They have confidence in what they are doing. We've got some young guys that can help our team and that can help us quick. But like I just told them after practice, they've got to prove to the team that they can help them. Yeah, I love confidence. But you have to back up confidence with work. We've got to get him healthy to where he can work full-time."
Anderson said he'll be there to help the 23-year-old rookie put in the work. So if people expect a Green Bay-esque feud to erupt within the position group, they might be waiting a while.
"You just bring him in, bring him along," Anderson said. "It'd be wrong and rude [to do otherwise]. I've heard Brett Favre say before, 'It's not my job to help Aaron Rodgers.' I don't believe in that. I think bringing a young guy on, and bringing Book on and trying to get him up to speed as quickly as possible [is necessary], because there are going to be times [when he's relied upon].
For his part, Booker seems to understand the balancing act of competing for playing time and helping the Broncos improve. He said Tuesday that the running back group is "doing both," and he's stoked about the prospect of how they could perform this season.
"We could be real good," Booker said. "I'm definitely excited about the group of guys we got at running back and the special play that each one of them has. Just to combine all of our play together, we'll be a scary group."
Booker, who is still limited at practice while he recovers from an injured meniscus, said he needed to make the most of the mental reps as OTAs begin.
"It's definitely important," Booker said. "Just for me and wanting to play this year, just gotta learn the playbook and I'm doing too much out there at all, so just me getting all the mental reps is definitely paying off so when I do get out there everything will be easier."
And so far, Anderson has seen the inquisitive side of Booker. He said the rookie out of Utah is "putting himself in the right situations" and asking the right questions. Anderson said Running Backs Coach Eric Studesville has been on the rookie and asking him lots of questions. Anderson's advice? Even if Booker gets a question wrong, he should answer with confidence.
"If you do it with confidence," said Anderson, laughing, "at least they're going to coach you and correct you instead of cussing you out."
Anderson's ultimate goal is to help Booker be as ready as possible when he can finally hit the field at full speed. And while he still expects there to be a physical curve at that point, Anderson believes Booker can be mentally prepared.
Through his first few weeks, Booker knows he already owes a lot to Anderson and Ronnie Hillman, among other guys.
"They don't turn their nose toward me or nothing," Booker said. "They're helpful and help me out with everything if I need help with it."
For now, that preparation is entirely mental. But for the confident rookie, the on-the-field work can't come soon enough. When it does, he's confident he'll be able to perform.
Sounds like another guy in the room.