ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Garett Bolles heard the boos.
Early last season, as Bolles struggled to avoid being called for holding penalties, he didn't miss the Empower Field at Mile High crowd express its displeasure.
As the former first-round pick enters his fourth season in Denver, he made it clear Thursday that he doesn't blame Broncos fans for making their opinions known. Bolles, too, said he knows his play wasn't good enough.
"Listen, our fans are some of the best fans in the country," Bolles said. "They deserve the best football. Here in Denver we have a tradition of winning. It's unacceptable the way that I played. I take full responsibility of that."
Instead of spending the offseason lamenting a year in which he led the league in holding penalties, Bolles got to work.
"Nobody likes to get booed, so I took that upon myself to get better," Bolles said. "I did whatever I can. I took [steps]. I worked out hard. I put on 20 extra pounds. I did whatever I can to make myself better, the best version of me moving forward, because I know this is a very important season not just for me but for my family. This organization is counting on me to be the best version of myself. I know whatever I had to do this offseason I did it."
In fairness to the Utah product, he did show improvement in the late stages of the season with Drew Lock under center. He was whistled for just one holding call over the final five weeks of the season, and he ranked fourth in Pro Football Focus' grading among all tackles who played at least 200 snaps from Week 13-17. He did get flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty that likely cost the Broncos the ability to ice their win over the Raiders, but he largely looked like a different player with Lock under center.
He also allowed just one sack as the rookie quarterback was sacked just five times in five games.
"I love Drew," Bolles said. "Me and Drew have a great relationship. I think he's a phenomenal athlete. He's a great leader. I think he is capable of doing anything. I think he's going to be a very special quarterback in this league. I look forward to blocking [for] him for many years. That's my goal: to do whatever I can to make him feel comfortable back there, to move the guys off of him. It's really nice knowing that I have a mobile quarterback that can move. I'm not always perfect on every play, but [it's helpful] having a quarterback that can see that and can move and get open and hit our big-time receivers that we have for big gains. ... I know Drew's doing everything he can to lead this team."
If Bolles is to remain in Denver for a long time, he'll have to re-sign with the team. The Broncos chose to decline his fifth-year option this offseason, and he is slated to be a free agent after the season.
"That was out of my control," Bolles said. "I can't dictate what [President of Football Operations/General Manager] Mr. [John] Elway or those guys up front do. What I can dictate is how I play on the football field. That's exactly what I can dictate. I can focus on myself and I can focus on my teammates. I love my teammates. I can focus on Drew and I can focus on everything else. I can't control that. My agent will take care of that when the time comes. I know that if I play good football and I play the best I can, then I know I can be here long-term. I know I can play at this level a long time. I know if I just focus on me and being the best me and not getting too high with the highs and too low with the lows, I know I'll be exactly where I need to be."
Bolles said in addition to adding physical strength, he's focused on being mentally stronger to help himself move on after a bad play during a game. He said his passion and energy is part of the reason the Broncos drafted him, and he won't move away from it completely. Still, he knows there are times when he needs to move forward and forget about a bad rep.
He'll also need to improve his technique, and that should be aided by a second season with Offensive Line Coach Mike Munchak. For the first time in his four-year career, he'll work with the same offensive line coach in consecutive seasons.
"That's huge for me," Bolles said. "Me and Coach Munchak have a really great relationship. We talked regularly during practice, before the game, after the game, just trying to get me better. This is the first time in my career that I've had the same O-line coach for the second year in a row. I'm just looking forward to our relationship to continue to get better. I trust him. I believe in him. I know he believes in me. I just have to do whatever I can to make him know that he can trust me."
Munchak told DenverBroncos.com's Phil Milani on Thursday that Bolles had a good virtual offseason and that he has a "great understanding of what's expected from him." The veteran coach said he expects Bolles to have a great year.
With Munchak directing him, Lock under center and a renewed mental and physical strength, perhaps the Broncos will see the best version of Bolles in 2020.
"I think I did a phenomenal job the last five games of the year of really trying to learn and to improve," Bolles said. "Having Drew back there and Coach Munchak drilling me, I'm just going to continue to get better and pick up where I left off last year."