ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Any discussion of Adam Gotsis' rookie season must include his recovery from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered during his senior season at Georgia Tech.
It prevented the defensive end from engaging in any substantial offseason work last spring and summer. That forced him to play catch-up throughout training camp once he was cleared nine months after he suffered the injury. Even as the 2016 second-round pick progressed through the season, he remained conscious of the injury, with a bulky brace serving as an ever-present reminder.
"I still think about it a little bit, just because I've still got the knee brace on there, so it feels a little different than running freely," Gotsis said as his rookie season concluded.
"Hopefully I don't have to wear that thing forever."
If all goes according to plan, that wish will come true. Gotsis said he expects his running work in the coming months to take place without a brace. If all goes well there, he should play his second season unencumbered.
After his rookie season, Gotsis knows he still has miles of work ahead of him -- and he knows he can't do that while sitting around and relaxing. He said he plans to spend "a week or two" in his native Australia visiting family and friends, but that will be it.
"That's probably going to be the down time of my offseason," he said. "But other than that, it's got to be work. I think a lot of guys in here aren't satisfied with what our record showed this year. One way to do that is just to put that work in [during] the offseason.
"You hope everyone else is working as hard as you, and you hold each other accountable."
That was also the case during an up-and-down rookie season. Gotsis never broke into the starting lineup, and still has yet to record his first sack. But his playing time spiked late in the season in the wake of Derek Wolfe's neck injury; his highest snap counts came in Week 15 against New England and Week 16 at Kansas City, when he played 41 and 34 snaps, respectively.
Gotsis averaged 31.0 snaps in the final three games of the season after averaging just 9.8 in the first 13. With more playing time, Gotsis became more active, particularly against the run, and in the final three weeks of the season, ProFootballFocus.com ranked Gotsis 12th in the league in total stops (solo tackles that led to an offensive failure), with five -- including four against New England.
The extra worked helped Gotsis, who, like many players, said the game slowed down for him. But help from teammates also pushed him forward.
"Definitely a lot. The room has definitely helped me. Guys in the room -- [Derek] Wolfe, Sly [Sylvester Williams], all those guys -- they help you with little things," Gotsis said. "The more you get out there, the more time you get to play, the more experience you get with things."
Experience, a full offseason of work and being another year removed from his torn ACL have Gotsis confident that Year Two will see him make the quantum leap the Broncos need from him.
"You know you're healthy. You know you've made it through a season," Gotsis said. "Now it's just getting back and getting all that strength back, and you will have a full offseason of lifting and running."