ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Melvin Gordon III has played the role of backup tailback before, but it’s been a while.
In his second season at Wisconsin he backed up Montee Ball, then split carries with James White the following year.
Since then, Gordon has either gone into a season, or finished it, as the No. 1 rusher, including the first seven of his NFL career.
Based on how the practice reps have gone since the Broncos reconvened for training camp three weeks ago, Gordon will have to adjust – perhaps mentally more than physically. Second-year running back Javonte Williams – who was 1B to Gordon’s 1A a year ago -- has almost always been the first guy in.
“I think they have a plan on what they want heading in, but as far as the rotation goes, I really don’t know,’’ Gordon said following the Broncos' light jog-through practice Wednesday. “I think they want ‘Vonte’ to be the guy, but we do rotate. He’ll take the first series and then the second series with the 1s, I’ll take.
“Sometimes we switch, but you know kind of how it is. I don’t know how they will do the rotation. I have to go back and look at how they did things in Green Bay with the carries and things like that.’’
Gordon referred to Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett’s previous three seasons as the Green Bay Packers’ offensive coordinator. The answer there is: It depends. Aaron Jones was the Packers’ clear No. 1 back in 2019 and 2020, with Jamaal Williams the No. 2. Last year, the younger AJ Dillon was 1A to Jones’ 1B role.
Gordon sounds as if he’ll take 1B in the name of victory and the Super Bowl, but would like to avoid the distant No. 2 role.
“My mom says just go out here and compete and go as hard as I can,’’ Gordon said. “I don’t know what the future holds other than that, but I just want to put my best foot forward so when I do so out there, they go, ‘OK, we need to get him out there more.’ I know I have the game; I know I can play and I still have the juice, but we’ll see.”
Second chance club
It used to be, the star quarterback leaving his original team to play for another was a disaster. See the later portion of the careers for Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler. But then Joe Montana went from Super Bowl hero in San Francisco to AFC Championship Game berth with the Chiefs and Brett Favre had one great year with the Vikings after 16 in Green Bay.
And then Peyton Manning and Tom Brady raised the second chapter bar. Manning became the first quarterback to win Super Bowls with two teams in the Colts and the Broncos, and Tom Brady later duplicated the feat with New England and Tampa Bay.
Russell Wilson, who won a Super Bowl with Seattle at the Broncos’ expense to cap the 2013 season, can become the third quarterback to pull off a second ring with a second team now that he’s joined the Broncos.
“I think anytime you’re with a team and then you go to another team, there’s always that excitement,’’ Hackett said. “It’s kind of like you never know what you have until it’s gone. For us, we’re just so excited to have somebody here like him. I think for us, it’s just about letting Russ be Russ and watch him go out there and execute. It’s supporting him and being there for him so we can continually bring that energy every day and that standard that he sets.
“I think he’s reenergized. He’s fired up, and we just want to keep feeding off that every day.”
Hamler, Dulcich, Cushenberry updates
Two of the Broncos’ most prominent offensive weapons, slot receiver KJ Hamler and rookie tight end Greg Dulcich, continue to come along slowly from injuries. Hamler seemed way ahead of schedule during the offseason in his recovery from ACL and hip surgeries, but he has been held out of practice the past week.
Will he return soon?
“I hope so. I really do,’’ Hackett said. “He’s been working so hard. Again, it’s such a unique injury with what he had that we just want to be sure that we’re smart with it. Yes, we want him out there, but we just we don’t want to have any setbacks or anything like that.”
Dulcich has barely practiced since tweaking his hamstring in the second week of OTAs in early June. He was conditioning on the side field again Wednesday.
Missing practice for a second straight day was center Lloyd Cushenberry III, who tweaked his knee during practice Monday. Hackett said the ailment is not serious. Backup center Luke Wattenberg, a fifth-round rookie, has been out with an ankle sprain suffered in the preseason game Saturday. Veteran Graham Glasgow, a right guard starter the previous two years, has been filling in at center.
Travis Fulgham, a veteran receiver waived Tuesday by the Broncos, was claimed Wednesday by the Packers. It's not a surprise, as Fulgham had 38 catches and eight starts for the Eagles in 2020 but only played in one game last year (for the Broncos) with no catches.
Fulgham became expendable by the Broncos after four young receivers -- Brandon Johnson, Kendall Hinton, Jalen Virgil and Seth Williams -- were impressive during their 17-7 preseason win Saturday against the Cowboys.
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