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'We have to be the guys that bring this team up': T Mike McGlinchey embracing opportunity for O-line to key Broncos' success

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When Mike McGlinchey entered the NFL as a first-round pick in 2018, he joined a 49ers team that had posted a 6-10 record the previous season in its first year under head coach Kyle Shanahan.

As a rookie, McGlinchey and the Niners won two of their final four games but still finished with a 4-12 mark.

The leap, though, was coming.

In McGlinchey's second season, the 49ers surged to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl appearance. For the Niners' young tackle, it was a lesson in how to change a culture — and he'll look to replicate that success in his first season in Denver.

"It's crazy how fast that this can turn around," McGlinchey told last week. "I've certainly had experience in turning an organization around and being a part of that, and it certainly is a fun challenge to do it again. And I don't think it's as far off here as we were at that point. I think we have a lot of great talent here, a lot of great coaches and just guys that need to put it together every single day on a consistent basis. I think we have a really good shot to do it."

As the Broncos look to switch their fortune, there are both mental and physical keys.

From a mindset standpoint, McGlinchey said the Broncos have to train to develop a winning mindset and that "it's not an accident" when teams find sustained success.

"It's not something that just happens to people," McGlinchey said. "It's a trained skill, and you have to put yourself in that position every single day at practice. It's the competitive spirit every day, it's the drive to not let things slip through the cracks. It's the drive to have deliberate, great, responsible reps and to learn from it when you're in the film room. It's a complete process-oriented mindset, and it's a mindset that when you're on the field you're competing for everything, and we've done that a lot. [Head] Coach [Sean] Payton certainly put us in those situations throughout camp, but it's something that we're going to continue to still need to work on. It's never something that you can put on the back burner because winning takes everybody's attention at all times, and I think we're building it here."

McGlinchey acknowledged it can take players "time to break old habits" and that certain Broncos are working through previous seasons that have "caused a lot of scars." He also acknowledged, though, that the attitude around Centura Health Training Center feels fresh and revitalized.

"There's a completely new air in this building, there's a completely new staff and people that know how to win," McGlinchey said. "I think just breaking through that and pushing yourself, because I don't think people always realize what they are capable of. If you have a dream, you have to empty the tank every day to get there, and I think we're starting to do that here."

While McGlinchey was brought to Denver for his strong play along the offensive line, his ability to help instill that winning mindset may have been just as critically important.

"It's good to have him back out there," Payton said last week after McGlinchey returned from a knee sprain. "You feel his presence in the huddle, from a leadership perspective."

McGlinchey said he feels "great" following his return from the injury and credited Denver's medical staff in helping him return to the field.

"I got pretty fortunate with the way the play wound up that the injury was what it was," McGlinchey said. "[I'm] happy to be back out here with the guys and really proud of the work that I did with our training staff and our performance staff. I think we have a great group in there, and they did a great job in helping me get back."

With McGlinchey back at practice, he'll also be able to help guide the unit that may be the most critical in determining Denver's success this season. Offensive Line Coach Zach Strief said earlier this offseason that he's addressed the expectations with his rebuilt offensive line and noted that if the Broncos struggle this season, it will likely fall on the O-line's shoulders.

McGlinchey has embraced that challenge and acknowledged that success must begin up front.

"Any good organization and any good football team, the culture and the attitude starts with the offensive line," McGlinchey said. "Our group has to be right, because everybody else can't be right [if we're not]. We're a team within a team. We're a separate unit that has to function on its own, and it's the only position in sports where five guys have to do one job together. If one guy's off, the whole play's off and you're letting other [10] other people and [52] other guys and a whole coaching staff down.

"We have to be the guys that cannot let this team down, and we have to be the guys that bring this team up. I think we're capable of that, and I think every good organization in football understands that: that everything starts with the offensive line. It's an exciting cross to bear. It's not really a burden; it's just an exciting opportunity, because as a football player and as a winner — as somebody who wants to be great — you want to be able to shoulder those responsibilities. Certainly Zach has hit that message home with us, and we're excited about it."

With McGlinchey helping to lead the charge toward a new culture and improved offensive line, that success may not be far off.

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