ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **It will not be long before Demaryius Thomas is back up to speed after missing all of the Broncos' organized offseason sessions.
Executive Vice President/General Manager John Elway acknowledged Wednesday after signing Thomas to a five-year contract that the team would be "careful" managing the three-time Pro Bowler's workload as he acclimates to the pace of training camp and an altered offense.
But when Thomas hits takeoff velocity, he'll have the loftiest of individual targets in mind.
"I don't know [about] a goal, but I want to lead the league in yards and touchdowns, basically about everything a receiver can do," Thomas said. "But, yeah, I kind of want to break the NFL record in yards."
He felt he could have hit the mark last year, but was derailed by a slow start. Ten months later, it still rankles him. He had just 141 yards and a touchdown on 13 receptions before the bye week. Short-sighted potshots and "hot takes" in electronic and social media ran riot.
When the Broncos returned, he went on a tear. He surpassed his three-week yardage and touchdown tallies in just one afternoon during a 41-20 thrashing of Arizona. That was the first of seven consecutive 100-yard games, one shy of the league record set by Detroit's Calvin Johnson.
By the end of the season, only Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown had more receptions and yardage than Thomas. He ranked among the league's top five in touchdown receptions and among the top five wide receivers in average yardage after the catch (5.83 yards). His 1,619 yards were a Broncos single-season record.
That's well and good, but he wants more. That's why even as his franchise tender remained unsigned, holding out into the regular season was never an option.
"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 [all] 16 games."
To do that, Thomas knew all along that he needed training camp. Not even an August holdout was an option; whether he signed a long-term deal or not, he planned to be at Dove Valley.
"I would have been here to learn everything," Thomas said. "Once I got on the field and in football shape, I could have been as fast as the others. I remember my first few games last year when I was a bit slower and I hated that. I didn't want to have to feel the same way this year."
Playing at that speed began with a rigorous offseason in which he compensated for the loss of on-field time with heavy cardio work, sometimes twice a day. He dropped from the 228-229-pound range to 222. He looked fighting trim at his press conference.
A rotating cast of notable players worked out with him at various points in the offseason, including Andre Caldwell, Bengals Pro Bowler A.J. Green, Packers safety Morgan Burnett and third-year Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
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.
But perhaps the most helpful players were Buffalo's Deonte Thompson and Baltimore's Marlon Brown. Thompson was with the Ravens until last September, and Brown has spent his entire career with them. The two receivers experienced Head Coach Gary Kubiak's offense on a daily basis in Baltimore last year, and they told Thomas what to expect.
"[Brown] said there's a lot of big plays to be made," Thomas said. "He said there's a lot of two-tight end (formations), two receivers, but he said I'd like it."
A previous iteration of the Kubiak offense helped Rod Smith become the Broncos' all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards, and propelled Shannon Sharpe to some of his 10,060 yards, a tally that was a league record for tight ends when he retired in 2004.
"I think I'll catch on fast," Thomas said.
And if he plays as fast as he hopes, he might find league records like Johnson's 1,964-yard standard of 2012 within his grasp.