ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Not quite 11 months ago, at the Broncos’ Kickoff Luncheon for the 2019 season, Von Miller spent much of his designated time as a guest panel speaker delivering effusive praise of his pass-rush partner Bradley Chubb.
Chubb not only was coming off a splendid rookie season in which his 12 sacks broke Miller’s team record for first-year players, he had spent the offseason as a dominant manchild. With left tackle Garett Bolles his most frequent victim, Chubb was overpowering during offseason team activities (OTAs) in May and June and again during training camp in July and August.
"He's a totally different player," Miller said at the annual luncheon that was held for Broncos sponsors and other VIPs inside the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse. "He's going to have the same jersey number on, but he's going to look totally different. He's been working on a lot of stuff. I'm excited for him."
It didn’t work out that way. Through three games, all losses, Chubb, Miller and the Denver defense had zero sacks, which set a dubious league record. Then, as Chubb was just getting his pass-rush game going again, his season ended. He picked up his first sack, and Miller had two, in game 4 against Jacksonville.
The Broncos lost on a walk-off field goal and when a frustrated Chris Harris Jr. exploded at teammates during the postgame locker room huddle, it was Chubb who stepped up and essentially told the veteran cornerback to knock it off.
The next morning, Chubb’s left knee didn’t feel as it should. An MRI revealed a torn ACL. Season-ending surgery was required.
Which leads to Question No. 6 in the 9NEWS series of 9 questions for the Broncos as players begin to report for COVID-19 testing Thursday:
Can Bradley Chubb bounce back from knee surgery?
Oh, how the Broncos need Chubb to bounce back. Not only for his play on the field, where his strength and high motor can overpower the opposing passing game when it’s all clicking, but for his presence among his teammates.
The Broncos’ 2018 draft class is loaded with players who were college captains. There is Chubb, Courtland Sutton, Royce Freeman, Isaac Yiadom, Josey Jewell, DaeSean Hamilton, Troy Fumagalli. And from the undrafted rear of that class is Phillip Lindsay.
But Chubb, as the No. 5 overall pick in the first round, is the commander among the young core of leaders. He has uncommon maturity for his age, a pleasant, friendly type who is all business when it comes to football.
For leaders to truly inspire, though, they must first play well. By all accounts, it’s impossible for anyone to attack surgical rehab with any more determination than Chubb did.
"I’m happy this actually happened to me because I feel like in life, I was getting a little too complacent," Chubb told reporters the day after learning of his partially torn ACL diagnosis on October 1. “With 12 sacks as a rookie, it’s kind of hard to keep that same grind, get that same thing. So I’m really happy that this happened to me because it’s a humbling experience.’’
Now that’s an attitude. Chubb was buoyed by fact he had suffered the same injury, to the same knee, as a junior in high school. And he recovered to become all that.
If the Broncos are to become what they want to be, which is a return to regular Super Bowl contention, they will need Chubb to lead them.
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