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KJ Hamler expected to play vs. Vikings, looking to prove himself in first game snaps since injury

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Nearly 11 months to the day after suffering season-ending ACL and hip injuries, KJ Hamler is poised to return to game action.

Hamler is expected to "get a couple snaps" in the Broncos' preseason finale against the Vikings, Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett said Thursday. 

"We're going to try to get him in there," Hackett said. "It's been a while since he's played."

Hamler suffered the injury on Sept. 26, 2021 in a Week 3 game against Jets, and he told on Thursday that he was unsure when he would return to the field.

"Just looking back at the lowest point in my life when the whole process first started until now, it's like, man," Hamler said. "I didn't really think I was going to even be able to play in a preseason game. I was honestly thinking I was going to be able to play in like the sixth game of the season. So the fact that I'm out here practicing, running full speed, fully padded and stuff like that and get to play in a preseason game to get warmed up is amazing. I'm blessed."

Hamler said he's "very excited" for the opportunity and that he doesn't need to have a catch to make the outing a success.

"Just getting hit a little bit," Hamler said of what he hopes to accomplish. "Seeing how I feel — gaining more confidence. I think out here I've been very confident in jumping and cutting and things of that nature, so just going out there and going back to being me."

Hamler said he'll also look to show himself that he's still the player he was before the injury.

"I think I've still got to prove that," Hamler said. "It's different. I've got a knee brace on too, so sometimes that can be a little complicated. No excuses. If I'm fast, I'm fast. If I can still blow by people, I can still do it."

And for the coaching staff, it's also a chance to see Hamler at work.

"Him getting out there, being in full pads, watching him run, you definitely feel some of that speed that he has and that he brings and the attitude he brings," Hackett said. "He's great to have out there. He's just going to have to continually build into it."

The opportunity alone, though, will be special for Hamler as he steps back onto the field with his teammates.

"I haven't played in damn near a year," Hamler said. "So just getting on there and getting a feel for it again and going against another team in a different colored jersey is going to be amazing. I'm just blessed that I'm going to be able to play again."

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