ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Funny how it works in professional sports. A player gets traded once and it seemingly becomes automatic he will be traded again.
Kenny Young is too good a player to have been traded twice before finishing his fourth season. Yet, he is here starting for the Broncos today at inside linebacker after he was first dealt in 2019 from the Ravens to the Rams in exchange for star cornerback Marcus Peters, and then from the Rams to Denver a month ago in a deal that also included a swap of late-round draft picks.
“I don’t know the words to describe it,’’ Young said about his transaction history in a sit-down interview with 9NEWS on a frigid, snow-flaked Wednesday afternoon. “But it’s a unique situation, of course, with this transition. It’s OK. I’m still playing football, still doing what I love. Just with a new team. A lot colder weather, of course. It was snowing a little bit today. But it’s good to be on a team that embraces the way I play.”
There was reason to feel sorry for Young when he was dealt Oct. 25 to the Broncos. He had just played well in the Rams’ game against the Lions, a victory that upped Los Angeles’ record to 6-1. The Rams have had a winning record, and have been playoff/Super Bowl contenders, all five seasons that Sean McVay has been their head coach. Young joined a Broncos team that was 3-4 and coming off four consecutive losing seasons and no playoff appearances in five.
But the Broncos needed Young to rescue their injury-depleted inside linebacker position that had just been steamrolled by the Cleveland Browns. Luckily for the Broncos, Young, who now has 22 career starts – including 10 in all 10 games he’s played this year – 177 career tackles, 5.5 sacks and a 79-yard pick six, has not felt sorry for himself.
“I can’t. I have a job to do,’’ he said. “That’s where my priority falls is me still being able to do my job. Like I said, it’s a unique situation. It’s a different conference. I played in the (AFC) conference before earlier in my career with Baltimore but I’m here to embrace it. We have seven more guaranteed games left and I need to put everything on the full front to execute at a high level that I’ve been playing at already.”
Wouldn’t you know, the Rams have gone 1-2 since trading away Young while the Broncos have gone 2-1. Young has 11 tackles in his three games with the Broncos, whose head coach and defensive play caller is Vic Fangio.
“It was difficult, honestly,’’ he said. “Anytime you try to learn a new defense as linebacker … I’ve busted my butt since I’ve been here to home in on the defense and really the details, to be able to go out there and execute and to put some veterans in position to make plays. It’s a great defense. Vic’s a mastermind at what he does. His greatest thing is his when his players believe in what he’s calling, it’s a very, very beautiful thing. I enjoy the defense here.‘’
A weakside-type linebacker at 6-foot-1, 234, Young grew up outside New Orleans in what he described as a small, country town. The Mannings – Peyton and Eli – are living legends in the New Orleans area, and nephew Arch just finished his high school season in the state semifinals.
“The high school they went to, (Isidore) Newman at the time I was playing John Curtis (Christian High School in River Ridge) it was kind of like our rivalry,’’ Young said. “And just to see what they have done, and that program really has a name now and how prestigious it is, is phenomenal. Yeah, Peyton and Eli grew up in that area and went to Newman and played football – it’s been a few years ago, but it’s good.’’
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After playing at UCLA, Baltimore and again in Los Angeles with the Rams, Young says Colorado is most like where he grew up.
“The feel is chill, very relaxed,’’ he said. “You have lakes here, you have mountains. We don’t have mountains back home but you have a bunch of woods. Just on a different level. But I think it’s the people. It’s the people that really sets it apart. And I think it’s the spread of the city. It gives you that Louisiana, southern-type flavor. I love nature. The only difference is it’s a little bit cold out here.”
It will be unseasonably warm (65 degrees at kickoff) today when Young’s new team faces his old defensive coordinator in Brandon Staley, who is now the Los Angeles Chargers’ head coach. Staley was the Rams’ defensive coordinator last season after he had spent his first three NFL seasons as an outside linebackers coach under Vic Fangio.
“Really it’s a credit to his leadership that he’s built for that role,’’ Young said of Staley becoming head coach of the 6-4 Chargers. “I’m sure he’s hands on with everything from the schemes to the plan to corrections – he’s big on that. And I think that’s what makes him most successful is his ability as a coach to be able to make so many changes. But it’s a game where we bring some energy, and focus on being 1-0.”
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