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KJ Hamler full speed ahead 7 months after ACL, hip surgeries

The Denver Broncos' third-year receiver is "well ahead of schedule."

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — That awkward landing KJ Hamler had while going up to catch a Teddy Bridgewater in Game 3 last year against the Jets?

It was more than just his ACL that tore. Hamler said Wednesday his hip popped out and also required surgery to repair. Given the seriousness of Hamler’s injury – team sources said there was initial fear of a Bo Jackson-like situation – it’s remarkable Hamler has been running around and cutting at full speed just seven months after his surgeries.

"I’m well ahead of schedule," said Hamler, the Denver Broncos’ third-year receiver with the tantalizing deep-ball speed. "Some days they’ve got to ramp me down a little bit and tell me to calm down so it doesn’t flare up so I’m playing it smart. Just progressing every day."

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos wide receiver K.J. Hamler if helped off the field after an injury against the New York Jets during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

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The Broncos have seen enough of Hamler’s speed to know he can impact a game as much as anyone. But his potential was crimped by rookie growing pains in 2020 and the knee and hip injuries last year. He caught deep touchdown passes of 37 and 49 yards from Drew Lock to beat the Carolina Panthers, 32-27 two years ago and there was an 80-yard touchdown reception from Lock in a preseason game at Minnesota last year.

Hamler was taken by the Broncos in the second round of the 2020 draft to become Denver’s version of Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill. Now that Hill left the AFC West for Miami, perhaps Hamler will be free to flourish – especially with the deep-throw prowess of new quarterback Russell Wilson.

The Broncos are obviously confident Hamler will be fully recovered because they didn’t draft, or acquire, a speed receiver in the offseason. Hamler also has history on his side. He tore his ACL while returning a kickoff in IMG Academy’s (Bradenton, Fla.) preseason game in August 2016. Hamler redshirted his freshman year at Penn State,  but then had two big years as a redshirt freshman and sophomore, combining for 98 catches, more than 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns.

In some ways his second ACL rehab was easier than the one he had 5 years earlier, in some ways the rehab was more intensive because of the second issue.

"The difference between now and then, I have more resources now," Hamler said. "And this wasn’t just an ACL. I had a hip repair, too. So it was a double-whammy. That was probably the hardest part. You had to be careful because of the hip and then the knee and it was all on the same side.

"It was a longer harder process but I think this process was better than my previous process from my senior year (in high school) just because I had more resources, better technology than I did so now I’m just getting prepared and getting ready faster."

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos wide receiver KJ Hamler comes out of the tunnel for warmups before an NFL preseason football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Jason Redmond)

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