Somebody must have forgot to tell Kalif Raymond the Denver Broncos drafted Isaiah McKenzie.
Because Raymond isn’t playing like a guy who knew the Broncos seemingly took his job away by taking the diminutive, speedy McKenzie in the fifth round.
“Through thick or thin – good, bad or indifferent – I’m always going to play with a chip on my shoulder,’’ Raymond said.
After essentially missing the entire offseason with a torn ligament in his hand that came from diving for a pass, Raymond has brought intensity and energy to every training camp practice.
And then in the Broncos’ preseason opener Thursday against the Chicago Bears, Raymond exploded with trifecta excitement, returning a punt for 34 yards, a kickoff for 41 yards and converting a first-and-20 with a 24-yard reception off a Kyle Sloter pass during the final-minute, game-winning drive.
After finishing the 2016 season as the Broncos’ returner, Raymond could have gone one of two ways after the Broncos took a near-identical player in McKenzie. He could have felt sorry for himself and gone in an emotional funk. Or he could have got a little ticked off and showed management and the coaches they made a mistake by not believing he could handle the returner/slot receiver job on a full-time basis.
“I’m playing mad,’’ Raymond said. “I’m playing like I haven’t done anything, yet, and I haven’t. I’m fired up, I’m playing angry like you said. I feel good. I feel way more comfortable back there.’’
Undrafted out of Holy Cross, the 5-foot-9, 182-pound Raymond played in four of the Broncos’ final five games last season. He returned 11 punts for a 10.1-yard average and six kickoffs for 22.8-yard average.
The biggest concern was in his decision making – when to catch a punt or kickoff, when to let them go. Rookie things.
And so the Broncos drafted three players who were successful returners in college: McKenzie, Carlos Henderson and Brendan Langley. McKenzie has already been declared the Broncos’ punt returner by head coach Vance Joseph.
Raymond, though, has a chance to make the Broncos’ 53-man roster if the team keeps seven receivers.
“I’m trying to build that resume and show people I can do a lot of things,’’ he said. “I only played four game last year so I still have to show people what I can do.’’