*DENVER — *Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders told reporters it’s “realistic” for him to be ready for the Broncos’ Week 1 opener against the Oakland Raiders, but he also said he couldn’t be certain about his return from an Achilles injury.
“It feels realistic, but who knows until I get out there and see how I feel,” Sanders said Monday at his youth football camp. “I’ve been working out with other NFL guys, but I haven’t been able to compare going up against a Chris Harris or going up against the defense. We’ll see how I feel, but in my head I’ve got all the confidence in the world that I’m going to go out and perform and have a Pro Bowl year. That’s what I want, and I’m working my butt off to try to attain that and achieve that.”
Sanders suffered his Achilles injury in early December during a Week 14 practice. The Broncos, winners of three consecutive games at that point, did not win again in 2018.
The 10th-year player has posted videos on Instagram of himself running routes against air, but he said there’s “no date” on when he’ll return to team practices.
The Broncos open training camp on July 18.
“We’re going to see,” Sanders said. “Just talking to the trainers, there’s no date on it. We’re not going to put a date on it. When training camp starts, we’re going to go with the flow and what they say. Obviously, I want to be out there. You guys know me. I’ve only got one [speed], and that’s go. But we’ve got to be smart about the injury. Obviously, right now, I’m running routes on my own and I feel good. But it’s different being out there and having to adjust on the fly, [having] a guy pressing you. I haven’t been able to experience that yet. So of course, we’re going to take our time with the process.”
Sanders said he’s “tired of sitting on the sideline,” but assured media he won’t be “hard-headed” as he tries to return from the injury. The Broncos are slated to play in the Hall of Fame game on Aug. 1, which means the team starts training camp before any other team in the NFL.
Sanders said those extra days will prevent him from rushing back to the field.
When the SMU product does return, he said he won’t change his playing style, which is seemingly predicated on fighting for extra yards and making tough catches in traffic.
Sanders, though, said he’s gotten smarter about taking unneeded hits as his career has progressed.
“When I was younger, I played reckless,” Sanders said. “As I’m getting older, I’m playing smarter and smarter. Sometimes if there’s two guys getting ready to hit me, I’ll slide. Guys might call me every name in the dictionary because I’m sliding, but that’s smart football. Why take a hit when it’s about to be two guys hitting me?”
Sanders also said he couldn’t change his style too much and that he will “play how I play.”
The 30-year-old player said he hopes to play 13 seasons in the league, which would mean contributing for four more years in the NFL. Sanders also said he hopes to reach 10,000 career receiving yards and win another Super Bowl. If he can play four more years, he would need nearly 750 receiving yards a season to reach that mark.
Sanders tallied 868 yards in 12 games last year and posted three 100-yard performances.
He expects to return to that type of production in 2019.
“My role is I’m going to be the playmaker,” Sanders said. “And I expect everybody to be the playmaker. That’s that. Obviously when the game’s on the line, I want the ball coming my way. When a play needs to be made, I want the ball coming my way. I’ve been in this league a long time. After [Demaryius Thomas] left, I became the No. 1 [receiver] and we went on a three-game winning streak. I was loving that, man. They were giving me the ball in the fourth quarter. I was the No. 1 read in a lot of the routes. I’m looking forward to getting back to that, but obviously I’ve got to go out and prove that to [Offensive Coordinator] Rich [Scangarello]. We’ve got a totally new coaching staff. So we’ll see.”