ENGLEWOOD, Colo**. – While Broncos fans restlessly waited for wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to re-sign a long-term contract with Denver on Wednesday, Thomas was confident even as the deadline rapidly approached.
He was confident that everything would fall into place with the team that drafted him in 2010 and helped mold him into the three-time Pro-Bowl receiver he is. Now, Thomas remains confident that he will stay a Bronco and retire in the orange and blue.
"… I kind of knew the whole time," Thomas said. "I always wanted to finish a Bronco and retire a Bronco. I kind of knew we would get something done. It was just [getting] the right thing."
Thomas' five-year contract comes on the heels of a record-breaking year with the Broncos. In his fifth year in the NFL, Thomas set single-season and single-game franchise records in receiving yards in 2014 with 1,619 and 226 yards, respectively.
"They took a chance on me when I was coming out," Thomas said. "The fans, they love me. Everybody around here loves me. The organization is the best. It's the only one I've been in. It's kind of breathtaking because I never thought I'd be in the situation I am now coming from where I came [from]. I look forward to it. I'm a happy man."
With the signing of his contract behind him, Thomas is looking forward to the Broncos training camp at the end of July. Thomas is now the longest-tenured Bronco on the roster after the loss of tackle Ryan Clady to a knee injury, meaning he has more opportunity to be a leader.
Thomas was absent from the Broncos' offseason training activities and it's minicamp, but he says he's kept in good contact with the team. During his time away, Thomas worked with a couple other NFL players who had played in a similar offensive scheme to newly appointed Head Coach Gary Kubiak and Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison.
Even with his time away, Thomas is planning on resuming his leadership role from the end of last season.
"I think it's picking up from where I left off, [and] of course coming back and running a new offense," Thomas said. "I still think as a player I can be better at things and work on things to get better. But the biggest part is being a bigger leader on the field and off the field. I think I can be bigger than I've been these past couple years."
After signing a new five-year contract with the Broncos, Demaryius Thomas returned to Dove Valley to meet with the media. All photos by Eric Lars Bakke.
Maybe the biggest sign of Thomas' dedication to growing as a leader is the fact that he says even if things didn't work out and the two parties missed the Wednesday deadline, he was determined to still play.
"I wasn't going to sit out games," Thomas said. "I was going to still play. It's just the fact of the kind of shape I would be in. But I was still going to play. I was going to play every 16 games."
It's now exactly two weeks until the Broncos will return to the practice fields for day one of camp and Thomas already has one goal in mind that he's working on: "I know I need to be a leader.
"I'm a quiet guy and don't say much, but like old guys like [former CB] Champ [Bailey] and [former S] Brian Dawkins were telling me, I need to step up—and [former TE] Shannon Sharpe telling me to step up and be a leader. When I hear that from those guys, it really means something. I need to step up and have the guys listen to me."