ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** This may not be the manner in which David Bruton Jr. had envisioned moving into the starting lineup, but with T.J. Ward suspended for the season opener, Bruton will begin his season prepared to start at strong safety.
The season opener is just a week away, and the Broncos got down to business with their first practice of the regular season to prepare for it.
Last season Bruton had an unexpected move into the starting lineup in Ward's stead when the Pro Bowl safety went down with a neck strain against Cincinnati in Week 16 and missed the following game against Oakland. Bruton had five total tackles, a pass defensed and a forced fumble against the Bengals and then four tackles and a pass defensed against the Raiders.
Bruton's level of preparation won't allow him to be caught off guard, and with that in mind, he feels ready to step in without missing a beat.
"As a veteran and as a professional who's been in this game a long time, I'm always prepared, no matter what time it is," Bruton said following Monday's practice. "It could be somebody being tired in the fourth quarter or a two-minute drill or someone being injured and having to miss a week or two, or whatever. I've been in this game long enough to understand that it's important to always be ready because you never know when your number's going to be called."
Bruton, now the longest-tenured Bronco on the active roster, has been around long enough to understand how things can change abruptly in the NFL.
"I'm expecting to go out there and take full advantage of my opportunity," Bruton added. "It's unfortunate what happened with T.J. but the way of this business is the next man up so for the next week, I'm the next guy up."
Head Coach Gary Kubiak said he thought the Broncos would "end up playing a lot of people" with Ward out. Bruton worked extensively in sub packages during preseason.
With Bruton listed as the starting strong safety, he should see an even bigger defensive role and that's exactly what he expects.
"I feel like that's the case," Bruton said. "I believe that Wade's going to put the guys out there who's made plays throughout OTAs, throughout training camp, throughout the preseason and if you make plays throughout the season, you're going to get to see your reps go up. So it's just going to put the best 11 guys out there on the field no matter what the situation is."