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Bronco notes: A year later, remembering D.T.

McManus wears No. 88 jersey in practice Friday. Albert O working through inactivity. Sterns surgery. Sutton ruled out vs. Chiefs.
Credit: AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
Demaryius Thomas smiles as he runs on the field during an NFL football game between the Denver Broncos and the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 19, 2017.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Hard to believe it was a year ago Friday that Broncos’ receiver great Demaryius Thomas passed away a couple weeks shy of his 34th birthday.

The Broncos paid tribute to D.T. through its social media platforms Friday and will honor him Sunday at their game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Empower Field at Mile High. Broncos kicker Brandon McManus, the team’s most senior member, wore Thomas’ No. 88 jersey at practice Friday.

“I think about him all the time,’’ McManus said. “I truly miss him. Guys like Kareem (Jackson) who knew him well, grew up in the same area, some of the guys here still (who were Thomas’ teammates like Courtland Sutton, Garett Bolles, Josey Jewell). It’s still hard to believe he’s gone and it’s been a year already. Miss hearing his voice and seeing his smile. So wanted to let him know we haven’t forgot about him by wearing his jersey.”

A first-round pick in the 2010 draft – three spots before the Broncos took Tim Tebow – Thomas finished as the franchise’s No. 2-leading receiver with 665 receptions and 9,055 yards. Only Rod Smith had more.

Shocking and sad as that day was to so many – it’s one of those indelible moments where Broncos fans will forever remember where they were when they heard the news of D.T.’s passing – there is solace knowing his life and career has been celebrated, especially by the Broncos.

“That’s important,’’ McManus said. “I haven’t had too much tragedy or loss in my life but I know what’s key is continuing to honor him, remember him. Keep his legacy alive to let people know how much he meant to you, how much he meant to this organization, the city, back in Macon, Georgia as well. I’m trying to live a life like he would. I try to do as much in the community as I can, as I learned from him.’’

Albert O

It’s been a head-scratcher. The Broncos can’t score (a league-worst 13.8 points per game that threatens to break the team record of futility), they’re terrible in the red zone (tied for last in the NFL), and all of their top 4 receivers have missed games because of injuries.

And yet the new coaching staff has decided to not play – and in five games not even dress -- Albert Okwuegbunam, a proven receiver and red-zone threat from the tight end position.

Granted, blocking is not Albert O’s strong suit and he wasn’t always sure-handed earlier this season as he seemed to be pressing. But when a team is hurting for weapons, not letting one of its most talented receiver targets play is a bit confounding. Albert O is 6-foot-5, 258 pounds with the kind of hops that can jump free from tight coverage. In limited action the previous two seasons, he had 44 catches for 451 yards and 3 touchdowns. He has just seven catches for 50 yards this year.

“At times it’s been frustrating but I’ve been focusing on controlling what I can control,’’ Okwuegbunam said in front of his locker Friday. “That’s coming to work every day, putting in 100% effort. Trying to get better any way I can.”

Has he been given a reason why he hasn’t been playing?

“No. Back when it first happened, I think after the San Francisco game, we talked about some film review, that sort of thing,’’ Okwuegbunam said. “But we haven’t really discussed a whole lot about that. But regardless, I’m focused on what I can control and that’s giving all I have in practice and staying ready for an opportunity.”

Sterns surgery

A promising season ended abruptly for Broncos’ backup safety Caden Sterns. Filling in for the injured Justin Simmons, Sterns had two interceptions off Matt Ryan in a 12-9 overtime loss to the Indianapolis Colts in game 5 on Oct. 6. The hip injury that had been bothering him off and on dating back to last year became aggravated in that game. He tried to take a PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma) shot in hopes of missing only one game, but it was decided prior to the Broncos’ game in London that Sterns needed season-ending surgery.

The 2021 fifth-round pick from Texas is expected to be fully recovered for next season. The ballhawk has four interceptions in just 20 games.

Sutton Out

As expected, Broncos top receiver Courtland Sutton will not play Sunday against the Chiefs after he was ruled out with a hamstring injury suffered late in the first half of the Broncos’ 10-9 loss at Baltimore last week. Fullback Andrew Beck and special teams linebacker Dakota Allen are also out with hamstring injuries.

Defensive tackle D.J. Jones is questionable with a shoulder injury.


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