ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — First impression of Latavius Murray: The man is huge by running back standards.
He’s listed at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds. Nathaniel Hackett noticed, too. Murray and Melvin Gordon III, who is also considered a big back at 6-1, 215, give the Broncos considerable size at the running back position.
"We might have some of the biggest running backs in the league right now," Hackett said Tuesday in his final press conference before his Broncos play the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night at Empower Field at Mile High.
Murray took an overseas, little sleep, 24-hour whirlwind journey to the Broncos. On Sunday he was in London, called up from the practice squad by the New Orleans Saints to fill in Alvin Kamara, who was a late-scratch because of a rib injury. Murray, a 9-year veteran who was a 1,000-yard rusher seven years ago with the Raiders, had 57 yards with a touchdown – the 50th of his career – off 11 carries for the Saints in a tough loss to the Vikings.
"We landed back in New Orleans about 2 a.m. (Monday), was at the facility for the most part in the morning, and then got a text from my agent (Ryan Tollner) and we talked about the possibility," Murray said Tuesday in front of his new Broncos’ locker.
The discussion Monday occurred while Murray had been automatically reverted back to the Saints’ practice squad. Any player on a practice squad can sign to another team that offers a spot on their 53-man roster.
The possibility of the Broncos signing Murray off the practice squad was there for consideration. The Broncos had just lost lead running back Javonte Williams to an ACL injury. His replacement, veteran Melvin Gordon III, is going through a troubling bout with fumble-itis. And Kamara was returning this week to join Mark Ingram in the Saints’ backfield.
The Saints didn’t want to lose Murray but they weren’t ready to offer him a permanent promotion to their 53-man roster, as the Broncos were offering. The decision to jump to the Broncos, even if it was less than 24 hours after the flight back from London, only made sense.
"Ended up going to a hotel to relax for the rest of (Monday) evening but then kind of finalized things here and hopped on a flight late, late out of New Orleans and got in around midnight last night," said Murray, who is the No. 5 leading rusher among active players with 5,549 yards (Gordon is 4th with 6,283 yards.) "I just knew it was an opportunity and kind of discussed some things. Had to communicate with the Saints as well but just happy to be here."
There’s some chance Murray dresses as the No. 3 running back Thursday night in the Broncos’ game against the Colts. But besides the mental toll of trying to cram study the Broncos’ playbook, there is the physical toll of a 32-year-old back playing in London on Sunday and in mile high altitude just four days later.
If the Broncos prefer a more fresh running back, Murray won't dress, and Devine Ozigbo will be elevated from their practice squad. Ozigbo could also give the Broncos some special teams work.
"I think anything is possible," Murray said of playing Thursday. "Right now I’m not sure what the plan is but for me I’m trying to soak everything in, soak the playbook in, get up to speed as quick as I can and just be prepared."
Broncos offensive coordinator Justin Outten said Tuesday that Gordon would get most of the ball-carrying load Thursday with new backup Mike Boone mixed in. But count on Murray contributing soon, even if not against the Colts. After the Thursday night game against the Colts, the Broncos have a rare 11-day span before they play their next game, Monday night, Oct. 17, against the Chargers in Los Angeles.
Murray is eventually expected to become the Broncos’ short-yardage, red-zone back and while he’s only been a modest receiving threat in his career, Murray is excellent in pass protection. Short yardage and pass pro adds up to a decent percentage of play snaps. At some point, Murray will be ready to run smack dab into BroncoMania.
"There was a lot of conversation around this team, a lot of conversation around this division in the offseason," Murray said of the Broncos. "Heard nothing great things about the locker room, I’m obviously in it right now and so far everything is what I’ve been told. I’m just excited. Excited to be here, I’m excited to go to work and bring another chip back."
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