ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** After a 2016 season fighting hip pain from the first play until the final snap, Demaryius Thomas says he feels healthier than ever, and it has him grinning from ear to ear.
"This is the best I've felt damn near my whole career," Thomas said Thursday. "That kind of helps, as well, if you go out and you don't feel no pain here. You can't run routes on this side or that side. It's basically getting equal now. It's more joy. I'm having a lot more fun, not worrying about guys covering me [more] on one side than the other."
Though Thomas said he thought he entered the previous season without pain, injury concerns immediately resurfaced beginning with the Broncos' season opener against the Panthers.
"At first, I wasn't [feeling pain going into the season]," Thomas said. "And then after the first game against the Carolina Panthers, that's when I started feeling all my pain. It came back after one hit. I think it was the first play of the game. And that's when I felt my hip again."
That Thomas can play without feeling pain on every cut is only part of his joy. The other part is returning to an offense that gives him and the other wide receivers more opportunities to move the chains. Thomas previously played in Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy's schemes during the wide receiver's first three years in the NFL.
"You know I like it," Thomas said. "It didn't really matter to me. Of course, I'm a receiver; I want to catch the ball more, and we [ran more] with the Kubiak offense. So I'm excited about having our old offense back."
The Broncos are back! The team returned to UCHealth Training Center for the beginning of offseason team activities. (photos by Gabriel Christus)
With his experience in the offense and renewed health, Thomas is taking on the role that Vance Joseph mentioned in February at the AFC Coaches Breakfast when he said, "I want him [Thomas] to be a dominant player all the time. ... I want him to win every one-on-one."
Thomas has embraced that, and now it's about execution.
"It's just taking advantage of, you know, once you've got one-on-one coverages, make sure every completion is 100 percent," Thomas said. "The quarterback gives you a chance, you get open, you make the play. From there, somebody tries to help, then you've got other guys to get open because [there's] going be a lot of people in this offense running wide open. So it's going to be hard to double-team anybody."
Thomas says he's wanted this challenge his entire career, and as he prepares, he's finally feeling better than ever.