ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** Jamaal Charles is adjusting to life as a Bronco almost perfectly.
He's signed a few balls with his old number and he nearly said "Chiefs" after a teammate broke down a huddle at practice, but other than that, it's been smooth sailing for Charles.
One thing that's made his transition from Kansas City to Denver so easy is Charles' mindset, which has not been to simply settle in for a small role in the running back rotation. Instead, he's competing for the top spot.
"Why am I not going to think I'm going to be the man? You think I'm just going to come up here just like, 'Aw?'" Charles asked Monday, feigning dejection. "Naw, that's never been me in my whole life. So my whole life I'm always going to feel like I'm going to be the man and that's why I want to come up [here]. And if I'm not going to be the man, why am I here? I should be at home sitting on the couch."
Charles is starving for the chance to prove himself once again, to show the world that he's the same running back who earned four Pro Bowl berths and two All-Pro selections. And more than that, he wants to do so while improving the rest of the running backs room.
"I just want to come in and compete and make everybody better, make the running backs better, turn [Devontae] Booker into a Pro Bowl running back when I leave here and turn C.J. [Anderson] into an All-Pro," Charles said. "I just want to come in here and just bring the energy, the experience. I just don't want to come here just like, 'Oh, Jamaal is here.' No, I want to come here to show people what I can do. … I want to come, show up and compete with my teammates and show them I am good and that I am still at the top of my career."
Though that will have to wait until Charles is fully cleared to return after completing his rehabilitation for a knee injury, the 10-year veteran is happy to take the process at a comfortable pace. He took another step in his recovery Monday when he donned a Broncos helmet and participated in position drills for the first time in the offseason workout program.
The last week of OTAs began Monday with an energetic practice as players continue to try to prove their mettle in the offseason. (photos by Gabriel Christus)
"He's made great progress as far as his rehab," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "[When] he came here his quad was really weak, and now it's gotten stronger. He's running hills, he's with [Running Backs Coach] Eric [Studesville] on a couple individual drills. So he's closer, but his time frame won't change. He'll still be ready for training camp for us."
Until then, Charles will have to continue watching the team drills from the sideline, keeping a close eye on the installation of Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy's new playbook.
"I like Mike McCoy's offensive scheme," Charles said. "It's something like [Chiefs] Coach [Andy] Reid's. He has a lot of opportunities to put his players in the best opportunities, and I'm happy to be a part of that — to put me in space, to put me at wide receiver, to catch the ball out of the backfield, even run the ball between the tackles. I'm excited about what his offense brings to the Broncos."
If Charles' transition on the field comes as naturally as he expects, fans will be more than happy to overlook a 25 in his autograph every now and then. Nobody's perfect, right?