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'I'm ready': Javonte Williams eager to reintroduce physical running style

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Before his season-ending injury, Javonte Williams was a bruising runner.

The Broncos' running back pummeled through some defenders and carried others on his back. He averaged the most broken tackles of any runner in 2021, and he often ate up more yards than seemed possible at the time of first contact.

Williams, who has returned to practice and said he's been cleared for contact less than 10 months after his injury, has no intent to change. Asked Thursday if fans will see the same violent running style, Williams was direct.

"That's the plan," he said.

Williams will be managed during training camp — Head Coach Sean Payton said Williams would have full, limited and off days — but he said he feels like himself again. And the journey to this point — one where his speed is back "in the same ballpark" as it was before the injury — has surprised even Williams in its pace.

"It was a surprise to me just hearing the doctors, seeing what everybody was saying about me," Williams said. "… The doctor told me if I would've had a little bit more damage it could've been an even longer timeline. Just being back out here … is a huge confidence boost. I was down on myself a lot, but I'm seeing the brighter side now."

Williams said he initially expected a 12-month timetable for his return, but as he progressed in his rehab, he realized he would be able to return to the field faster than anticipated.

"I feel like when I really started hitting my speeds on the GPS and just seeing how fast I was running, I was like 'Oh, I might be [back] a little bit earlier,'" Williams said. "And then just hitting my numbers in the weight room, getting back in the weight room, hitting my maxes, things like that. I was like, 'It's stronger than I think it is' or what everybody else is saying."

Williams worked with both Vice President of Player Health & Performance Beau Lowery and Head Athletic Trainer Vince Garcia as he returned from the injury, and he said returning to the weight room was critical in his recovery.

"Just trusting the doctors," Williams said of how he returned so quickly. "I really think back squats are something that really helped me out a lot, just getting back in the weight room and strengthening my knee. I think that's really one of the biggest things that got me back early."

Williams' current status, though, was not always expected. For the first two months after surgery, Williams could not move his knee.

"I had to learn how to bend it again, learn how to walk," Williams said.

His parents came to Denver for about two months, and the normally independent Williams had to rely on them for help.

"I couldn't do anything," Williams said. "They were having to do everything for me. I think that was the hardest part."

Now back on the field, Williams said his confidence is "the highest it's ever been." He acknowledged that the current hurdle in his recovery is the mental aspect that can come with returning from a serious surgery. After the first training camp practice, Williams said he felt those worries slip away.

"When I got out there and started running, you forget about everything," Williams said. "You're just back on the field again."

And soon enough, Williams will be able to return to the bruising style of football that built him a reputation as a rookie. Before long, he'll again be able to lower his shoulder and run through a defender.

"I can't wait," Williams said. "I'm ready."

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