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'It's not just something that's handed out': Courtland Sutton putting in work to prove he deserves to be 'a Bronco for life'

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As Courtland Sutton enters the final year of his rookie contract, his goal is simple.

The 2019 Pro Bowler hopes to exceed his previous level of play and, in the process, secure his long-term future in Denver. Sutton, who will enter his fourth training camp since the team selected him in the second round in 2018, knows that will require him to prove he's worth that kind of commitment.

"If I can be a Bronco for life, that would be the thing that I would love to be able to do," Sutton said Tuesday. "However, I know that comes with consistent work. It's not just going to be something that's handed to me. I have to go out there and prove to not only myself, but to my teammates, to [GM George] Mr. Paton, the rest of the team, the rest of the guys upstairs that I deserve that. It's not just something that's handed out, and it's my job to go out there and prove that day in and day out and that's exactly what I'm going to go do."

Sutton's on-field production in 2019 put him among the top receivers in the league. The then-second-year player posted 72 receptions, 1,112 yards and six touchdowns as he earned a Pro Bowl berth while playing with three different quarterbacks.

Sutton then appeared poised to take another step in 2020 before missing Week 1 with a shoulder injury and suffering a season-ending ACL injury in Week 2 at Pittsburgh. He caught three passes for 66 yards in just 31 snaps last season.

As he returns to the field, Sutton should provide more than just a boost in receiving production.

"They lost their voice in Courtland Sutton and their juice," GM George Paton said. "He means so much to this team."

And while Paton said the team was currently focused on training camp, he acknowledged that Sutton — and outside linebacker Bradley Chubb — was among the team's most important pieces.

"Those are two of our core guys," Paton said. "I've said it a number of times. We're going to keep our core guys. That's our goal. We're going draft and develop, and we're going to take care of our own. Right now, we're focused on camp and getting through camp. At the right time, we're going to try and get these guys done and they know that."

Until that time arrives, Sutton is eager to return to the role he embraced in 2019 as a star wideout and as a leader during the 2020 offseason.

"I did miss being able to be on the field with the guys, bringing that juice and being able to bring that presence when we get on the field and in the red zone," Sutton said. "Scoring touchdowns is something that wins games and when you're not putting up points, it's definitely frustrating for the whole team. … I'm looking forward to being able to go out there and put my best foot forward and help where I can.

"I feel like I do bring a big presence to the offense. I want to be able to get back to that as soon as possible."

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