ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the Broncos introduced their newest running back, it was impossible for on-lookers to not think of the one who was no longer there.
Hours earlier, Phillip Lindsay and the Broncos announced their decision to mutually part ways in free agency. Then, on Thursday afternoon, as free-agent addition Mike Boone stepped to the lectern to field questions about joining his new team, it was only inevitable that he would face a question of whether he felt he'd be replacing Lindsay.
Boone is no stranger to the former Broncos back who had been a beloved member of the team, as the two trained together in the months before entering the league in 2018, both destined to do so as undrafted players. But filling Lindsay's shoes is not something Boone is thinking about doing.
"I'm here to be me," Boone said Thursday during his introductory press conference. "Shoutout to Phil — major respect, great athlete — but I'm just here to be me and do what I can."
What Boone can do will be defined by the kind of opportunity he can carve out for himself.
In his three seasons with the Vikings, his opportunities were few and far between, but he made himself valuable in practically every facet available at his position.
With the ball in his hands, Boone proved to be an elusive and decisive back. Since entering the league in 2018, Boone has the league's top mark in rushing yards per carry among running backs who have played in at least 40 games.
So while his 379 career rushing yards may not be attention-grabbing, his 5.3 yards-per-carry average shows how he's been able to make an impact in limited action behind the likes of two-time Pro Bowler Dalvin Cook and 2019 third-round draft pick Alexander Mattison.
"He was playing behind Dalvin Cook so he didn't have a lot of opportunity," General Manager George Paton said, "but when he did have the opportunity, he really produced."
Even though he wasn't playing much, Boone said he feels he was able to learn from Cook and the other running backs and improve over the years.
Now, as he joins the Broncos, Boone sees a chance to continue his efficient and effective play in an offense for which he feels well-suited.
"I like to consider myself a one-cut back," Boone said. "I like to make my cuts and then get downhill. I feel like that fits the scheme of this offense and I feel like I can be versatile and come in and make the offense a little more explosive whenever my number is called."
In addition to his skills as a ball-carrier out of the backfield, Boone spoke of the importance of the other parts of his skill set. He said pass protection is "extremely vital" and noted that he's a capable receiver after playing wideout throughout his high-school years. He transitioned to running back only after entering college.
"I feel like that helped me and allowed me to be able to run routes out of the backfield and win those matchups against linebackers whenever I'm out wide or in the slot," Boone said.
In Denver, Boone may see more action out of the backfield. Behind 2020 starter Melvin Gordon III, the Broncos have three-year veteran Royce Freeman and younger players in LeVante Bellamy, Damarea Crockett and Jeremy Cox. Beyond Gordon, there should be an open competition for the No. 2 role.
At this point, though, Boone said he isn't concerned about that. His concern is just with things he can control, like his effort and dedication.
"I'm just coming in and I'm here to do whatever the organization asks of me," Boone said. "Whether that's the No. 2 [running back role], special teams — wherever they see me fit, I'm excited and I'll give my best effort towards it."
That willingness to play and excel on special teams helped him earn his spot with the Vikings. Even though he played little on offense in Minnesota, Boone played more than half of the Vikings' special-teams snaps in each of the past two seasons. Boone received NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors after forcing a fumble against the Texans in Week 4.
The Broncos too may benefit from Boone's skills in the game's third phase.
"He played on four phases on special teams, and he's one of the top special teams players for the Vikings," Paton said. "… I think he's going to help our room, he's going to add some special teams to the offensive side of the ball, which we lack. And so I'm really excited to have Mike Boone here."