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'That mindset needs to be present here': Broncos embrace postseason goals and the work that must come first

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Across the 2023 offseason, the Broncos have focused on work.

But that doesn't meant they don't have expectations for the upcoming season.

As the Broncos continue with their first week of training camp, Head Coach Sean Payton acknowledged the team must hold the mindset that it's capable of earning a postseason berth.

"I'm not afraid of the expectation," Payton said of the goal of making the playoffs. "I've talked with several people about being used to contending for the postseason. You don't take it for granted. That mindset needs to be present here. So, yes, I see this as a team that has that ability. It's our job to bring it out in them."

Quarterback Russell Wilson, who has earned eight playoff berths and won nine postseason contests, acknowledged that everyone on the team holds the same goal of returning to the playoffs.

"We put on our cleats and put on our pads and train as hard as we do every day because we want to be the best in the world," Wilson said. "We don't want to be second place. Anything not first is second — or last — in my opinion. I think that the biggest thing is we as a team, we have a goal in mind. But all that stuff's down the road.

"I think the best way to get there is one moment at a time, enjoying each day, each practice, each moment. Battling through, lifting each other up every day … and trying to be the best version of us individually and collectively that we can be. That's the journey we're on right now."

Defensive lineman D.J. Jones, who has found postseason success of his own, shared Wilson's sentiment.

"I think what we're doing is working, every day," Jones said Thursday. "Stacking bricks, chopping wood — whatever you want to say — and let the chips fall where they may. I think the work's going to speak for itself."

As Wilson, Jones and the Broncos move forward with those expectations, they know that means leaving the struggles of 2022 behind.

"Last year is last year," Wilson said. "It wasn't anything that I ever wanted, in terms of the expectations of how I expect to play every day. You know, you take the good with the bad, you take the highs with the lows, you take the mountains and the valleys."

As the work continues, Wilson and the Broncos will be guided toward that by a coach that believes in their potential.

"Coach Payton has been the best, in terms of just really stepping in and really leading our football team," Wilson said. "He's a world championship coach, Super Bowl champion. He's won a lot of games, been in a lot of playoff situations. I've played against him before — [there have been] been great matchups over the years. We've had a lot of respect and regard for each other. He coached me at the Pro Bowl with me and Drew [Brees] and different guys we got to be around. It was always a gift and always had high regard for who he is as a coach, as a man, as a competitor, as well. He's leading our football team in the right way. I've got a lot of love and respect for Coach Payton and where we are right now."

That support, Payton said, is what his team deserves as they head into 2023.

"I said it to them last night, 'You guys deserve the best teaching in the world. We're going to give it to you,'" Payton said. "They really do [deserve it]. They're the best players in the world. They deserve a chance. Now, it's not going to be easy."

The Broncos know it won't be easy, but they'll retain their expectations.

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