ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —Three-hundred-and-fifty-one days after suffering a partially torn ACL against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Bradley Chubb will rejoin his teammates at Empower Field at Mile High on Monday and again take aim at an opposing quarterback.
The 2018 fifth-overall pick's second season was cut short — he recorded just one sack in the first four weeks of 2019 — and he's spent the last year working his way back. After an offseason of rehab, Chubb has reached that point. He had a brief scare in training camp as he missed a week of practice with what he called tendonitis, but the NC State product said he now feels better than at any point during the process.
As he tries to return to the standard he set during his rookie season — he recorded a franchise rookie record 12 sacks — Head Coach Vic Fangio can't help but be impressed by Chubb's work ethic.
"He's in a good spot I think," Fangio said Saturday. "He had a tremendous rehab from the day he started his rehab after his operation last year all the way up into training camp. Our trainers remarked they haven't had many guys that attacked his rehab and handled it the way he did emotionally. When we came back and got in training camp, he hit a pothole or two, which is to be expected. But he's in a good spot now. I'm sure once he starts playing, he won't be as good as he will be two, three, four weeks from now. I don't know when the exact time is you actually fully recover from those, and some of it's mentally, too. But he's in a good spot and I'm happy for him."
Chubb is still working his way all the way back to full health, and he said how much he plays against the Titans will depend on how his body feels. He said while he wants to be out there for every snap, he won't limit his team defensively.
"I want to be out there for all the plays that the defense has," Chubb said. "As a mature person, I have to understand that if I'm out there not feeling 100 percent, then we're playing with 10 guys and I don't want to be selfish. I want to put this team in the best position to win. Whenever I'm feeling good, I'm going to be out there. If I need to take a step back, I'm going to do that as well. As long as I'm out there, I'm going to put my best foot forward 100 percent and do it to the best of my ability."
When he is on the field, Chubb said he'll aim to let the game come to him and not overextend himself in the wake of Von Miller's injury. Neither the loss of Miller nor his in-progress recovery, though, will stop Chubb from setting high goals for himself in Week 1 and for the rest of th season.
"Each year, I'm trying to progress and become a better overall player," Chubb said. "I feel like I was doing well with the rushing and I had to work on the dropping. Last year, the sacks weren't coming, so I wanted to work my rushing and become an overall great player. You see guys making plays all over the field and changing games. That's something I want to do. I feel like the progression is going to be there year-to-year, and I spent a lot of time this offseason. I knew I was going to have to prove something when I got back, so I tried to do a lot of things and work on myself. I feel like it's going to be a huge jump from last year to this year."
The Broncos didn't record a sack until Week 4 last season, which coincidentally coincided with Chubb's injury. In his first football game in nearly a year, Chubb will try to help Denver get off to a much better start.
MCMANUS CONTINUES CAREER IN DENVER
The Broncos on Friday agreed to terms with kicker Brandon McManus on a four-year extension that runs through 2024, and Fangio pointed out on Saturday the value of having a reliable kicker.
"He's deserving of it," Fangio said of the extension. "He's one of the top kickers in the league. His percentages over the last few years bear that out. I have a lot of confidence in him as a kicker, alluding to that last game last year when I sent him for the 57-yarder there at the last game [against the Raiders]. I have confidence in him. I think he can make those kicks. He made the kick against the Chargers to win the game. Kickers are hard to come by, good kickers. All you have to do is look at 32 of them across the league. They're hard to come by. When you have a good one that you like and he's happy here, it makes sense to get a deal done."
Due to Miller's injury, McManus will be the only player left from Super Bowl 50 who is active on Monday against the Titans. McManus said he hopes to return to that pinnacle at some point in the future.
"Being here still to me means a lot," McManus said. "Obviously, I would love for Von or some of the other previous guys we won the Super Bowl with to be here with me. That's the nature of this business. Obviously, it's an ever-revolving door as you guys all know with new people coming in and out. With Von being sidelined for right now, it's huge that I'm still here. I'm grateful to [President of Football Operations/General Manager] John [Elway], [President and CEO] Joe Ellis and the Bowlen family and to Vic for wanting to keep me around longer. My goal — and I told John and them — I would love to get back to winning and help bring another Super Bowl back to Denver. Obviously me being the last one of that team, I know what it felt and what it took to get there and the confidence we had going into every week — just instill that into these young guys and really the extra work it takes to get back to that point."
McManus was at his best during that Super Bowl run, as he went 10-for-10 during the 2015 postseason. No kicker in franchise history has a better postseason make percentage.
CALLING THEM UP
The Broncos have just three healthy outside linebackers on their active roster, which means they may have to make a move ahead of Monday. Fangio said promoting rookie Derrek Tuszka off the practice squad is "a possibility" and that the team would make a decision on Monday.
Under new NFL rules, teams may promote two players from the practice squad to the active roster on game day, and those players aren't exposed to waivers when they return to the practice squad the next week. Additionally, teams may have 48 active players — up from the previous 46 — so long as the team dresses eight offensive linemen.
Fangio didn't specify how the Broncos would approach the new roster possibilities.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
In a season opener, teams must always be ready for the unexpected. So while Tennessee made a run in the playoffs as a run-heavy, methodical team, Fangio wouldn't be surprised if they try to speed things up in Denver.
"Always in the first game you always have to be ready for unscouted looks, unscouted plays on both sides of the ball," Fangio said. "Coaches have had the offseason to study, put in new things. You always have to be ready for that. It wouldn't surprise me to see them go no-huddle on us early in the game to just try and get us off balance also. We've worked against that. Hopefully we're ready, but I'm sure there will be something that — a play or a formation — that will be new to them."