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'He's a true pro': Broncos honor RB Javonte Williams' astounding recovery with prestigious Ed Block Courage Award selection

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — During the Broncos' joint practices with the Los Angeles Rams in August, running back Javonte Williams took one of the biggest steps of his return from injury: a practice session without the support of a brace on his right knee.

Williams' recovery from the knee injury that caused him to miss the last 13 games of the 2022 season produced on-field results in the days prior, as he recorded seven touches in the Broncos' game against the San Francisco 49ers. Still, Williams pinpointed the joint practices as the moment he realized he was back to his previous form.

"I really think it was in the joint practice against the Rams — it was the first time that I took my brace off, just running free," Williams said after Thursday's practice. "I felt pretty good, so I felt like I was pretty close then. As the season kept going on, [I] just kept getting stronger and stronger."

Williams' teammates and coaches took note of his tireless dedication in his recovery, and on Thursday, the third-year back was named as the Broncos’ 2023 Ed Block Courage Award winner for his efforts.

Williams said the most meaningful aspect of the award was the recognition from his teammates, and he said he views the honor as more of a team award than an individual one.

"Just hearing the players and everybody else talk about me and congratulate me in the locker room, it just showed that [they] might not have been with me the whole time, but [they were] keeping an eye out and just watching everything that was going on," Williams said. "Just being able to come back and help my guys in any way that I can on the field is a good thing."

With Williams resuming his position in the Broncos' backfield, Denver has punished opposing defenses on the ground in the second half of the season. Williams leads the Broncos with 584 rushing yards and averages more than 50 yards per game, and he has added 155 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the passing attack.

Most encouraging of all, Williams said the knee injury doesn't cross his mind during games. He has appeared in all but one of the Broncos' games in the 2023 season and has been Denver's top rusher in its past seven contests.

"That's a blessing, because [injuries] like this, a lot of people say it lingers on two or three years," Williams said. "I feel like it's something I've already gotten past, and now I'm just looking forward."

Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi reflected back on when he first joined the Broncos, and he said he's been most impressed by the dedication with which Williams has approached his recovery.

"They were like, 'Hey, you can't count on a guy who has had this injury, no matter how well he is rehabbing,'" Lombardi said. "… History tells you that it's a two-year injury. He's defied that. He just kind of goes about his business, he doesn't talk a lot, and he's even better on Sunday than what you see in practice. … [I'm] just super impressed with him, the way he's come back from his injury and even if I didn't know about that, just the way he handles his business. He's a true pro."

Despite beating the expected recovery timeline and returning to full health for the Broncos' Week 1 opener against the Las Vegas Raiders, Williams still sees room for improvement in his game and isn't affording himself any excuses.

"It was a pretty tough injury that I had to come back from, but if I'm judging myself, I feel like there's still a lot of plays that I left out there [in recent games]," Williams said. "I could play a whole lot better and just helping my O-line out. Everything isn't going to be perfect, but just the type of player and person that I am, I feel like there's still some stuff that I need to do on the field."

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