ENGLEWOOD—John Phillips has been through the socioeconomic extremes of the National Football League.
The tight end was with the Dallas Cowboys for the opening of Jerry World, now known as AT&T Stadium, in 2009.
After four seasons in Dallas, Phillips played three seasons with the San Diego Chargers, where team boss Dean Spanos is the first to say game days at Qualcomm Stadium is inadequate.
And now after overcoming some rather daunting odds, Phillips has made the season-opening roster for the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.
And if he could be so candid, he’s taken with the place.
“It’s incredible, everything about it is first-class,’’ Phillips said. “From the people to the facility – they have the best facilities -- to the way the training staff works with you. Even the food they serve here is the best I’ve had.’’
That's what $25 million will do, which is what the Broncos invested into renovating their UCHealth Training Center -- including a new kitchen and cafeteria -- the past two seasons.
Phillips, 29, who is more blocker and special team’s player than receiver, is on a streak of making season-opening rosters the hard way.
Last year, he was among the San Diego Chargers final cuts. Five days later, they brought him back and he played in all 16 games.
He was out of work throughout the offseason this year before he signed with the Broncos on the June 28, or the first day of training camp after Mannasseh Garner underwent an emergency appendectomy.
On the first day, Phillips suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him for two weeks. To get signed off the streets late in the offseason, then go down with a significant injury and still make the team? That doesn’t often happen.
And yet, Phillips figures to play plenty in the Broncos’ season-opening game Thursday against Carolina because he and Virgil Green are Denver’s only healthy tight ends.
“It can be tough getting injured and making it but I just kept working hard in rehab and the weight room and the meetings,’’ Phillips said. “I’m thankful.’’
If Jeff Heuerman flipped a coin right now and was spotted “heads” and “tails,” it would land on its side. It’s not a hamstring but an ankle this time that has shelved Heuerman this week.
The tight end has been unable to stay healthy pretty much since the Broncos made him their third round draft out of Ohio State last year. He missed his entire rookie season with a torn ACL suffered on the second day of rookie minicamp in May. He has been sidelined through much of the offseason and training camp because of various leg ailments this year.
It appears doubtful Heuerman, receiver Bennie Fowler III (fractured elbow) and tackle/guard Ty Sambrailo (elbow) would be ready to play Thursday against Carolina.
The Broncos are hoping center/guard Kyle Ferentz (knee) can be available.
Copyright 2016 KUSA