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Mile High Morning: How Justin Simmons developed his voice to speak out for racial justice

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The Lead

During the initial wave of protests for racial justice and against police brutality that swept the country in May and June, Justin Simmons didn't just take action.

Offered a megaphone during a protest in his hometown, he also gave his voice to the movement.

As documented in a new story from Sports Illustrated's Greg Bishop, that moment represented years of learning.

As a child, he learned from his father how to conduct himself in the event of police stop even when it seems unjustified. Unfortunately, that would prove necessary in 2018, as the story details.

In 2016, he didn't at first understand the method of then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's protest; but he researched it and learned why Kaepernick took the route he did.

From teammates like Brandon Marshall and Demaryius Thomas, Simmons learned more about pressing need for people to discuss systemic racism and police brutality, as well as voter registration and criminal justice reform.

All of these events, these lessons, brought him to the point where he felt he was comfortable speaking up — and after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police officers, he welcomed the opportunity to share a message with his community in his hometown in Florida, in his home in the Denver area and to anyone who would listen.

"We're all better off for the conversations we had this spring and summer," Simmons said.

Below the Fold

A few days ago, we discussed the possibility that rookie center Lloyd Cushenberry III could be the Broncos' most important rookie. Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer agreed with that sentiment in his mailbag on Wednesday. Asked which rookie will make the most individual impact for their team, Breer singled out the top two picks and then a handful of non-first-rounders. Cushenberry was the first non-first-rounder he mentioned: "If you want to discuss important, Cushenberry is certainly that for Denver."

Not much has been said of the Broncos' new punter, Sam Martin, but early impressions seem to be good. It's hard to examine his impact so far since he has not seen any game action for his new team, but as The Denver Post's Kyle Newman wrote, "Broncos coaches have been impressed with the ability of Martin … to control the football with his foot."

The Unclassifieds

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