ENGLEWOOD—Evidence of how badly Chad Kelly wants it is seen through how intently he pays attention.
The cast on his right wrist, a nuisance since tearing a ligament during his Ole Miss Pro Day workout two months ago, will come off Monday.
There is still strengthening work to be done before he can get on the practice field, so he’ll remain an observer for the final week of organized team activities (OTAs) Monday through Thursday, and probably during the following week’s three-day mandatory minicamp.
“I have to make sure I have to do what I have to do in the treatment room and get back as soon as possible,’’ Kelly said. “More range of motion and then hopefully be able to grip the football and be able to throw again.’’
Eventually, there will be a third member in the Broncos’ Great Quarterback Competition. Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch may not have to worry about Kelly this year. Siemian was a seventh-round draft pick coming off ACL surgery two years ago and he sat out his rookie season – although he was impressive in the preseason. Lynch was a healthy first-round draft pick a year ago and he didn’t play much as a rookie, either.
Kelly is not only coming off a wrist injury to his right throwing wrist, but his second ACL operation on his right knee.
“It’s coming along well,’’ Kelly said of the knee. “I have a veteran right next to me, (running back) Jamaal Charles, coming off the same situation. We’re pushing each other every day but I got to keep on working really hard to try and get back to full strength and even sharper than what I was.’’
And Kelly was not only a seventh-round pick this year, he was the Mr. Irrelevant pick, a moniker bestowed upon the final draft selection each year.
“I didn’t really think of it as being that,’’ he said. “I was glad to be drafted. At the end of the day I was so happy to be part of such a great organization and to have the chance to play with The Denver Broncos. I mean that’s what it’s all about. … And now this is my chance. I’ve got to go out and prove myself.’’
By all accounts, former Buffalo Bills and Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly is a great uncle. But uncle Jim didn’t raise Chad Kelly. Kevin and Charlene Kelly are Chad’s parents. Just wanted to give credit where it’s due.
“My parents, they worked real hard to get me to where I am today,’’ Chad said. “They weren’t able to afford football camps and going on college visits so I was very blessed to have a great family around me from head to toe.
“Growing up as Jim Kelly’s nephew I was able to see a lot of things and to work out with the Buffalo Bills at such a young age, back in high school, and be able to see what I could do in the near future.’’
Jim Kelly is now an inspiring cancer survivor who has conducted interviews in cities across the country to raise awareness for his website Your Cancer Game Plan.
His stop in Denver last month was well-timed as it was a few days after the Broncos’ drafted his nephew. During Chad Kelly’s sit-down interview last week with 9NEWS, he was shown the video response Jim gave to the question about his nephew’s past off-field altercations.
“People keep bringing that up and as an uncle and he’s my godson, it irritates me because he’s a good kid,’’ Jim Kelly said in a 9NEWS studio on May 4. “And, yeah, he made stupid mistakes. But that was three years ago and they keep bringing it up. Most of those things happened when he was not even at Ole Miss and people keep bringing it up.
“But you know … he’s learned from it and hopefully he continues to learn, like all kids do. But he’s a guy, his work ethic is unmatched. I never even came close to his work ethic. His athletic ability. Now he has to get healthy.’’
After listening to his uncle’s response, Chad said:
“He hit it right on the head. What has been in the past was a long time ago. I’m not the same person I was. He knows that. He knows like everybody that I’m going to work extremely hard to get to where I want to be and that’s at the top. I want to be able to follow his footsteps one day and be able to compete in the Super Bowls. That’s what every kid dreams about … I’m going to keep working hard as soon as I can get back on the field and prove myself.’’
Realistically, Kelly is expected to spend his rookie year getting healthy and learning the intricacies of becoming an NFL quarterback. And then depending on how Siemian and/or Lynch perform – the Broncos figure to be especially patient with their first-round pick -- Kelly will further develop in 2018 before getting a chance to legitimately compete for the starting quarterback job by 2019.
Understand, projections can be erased and rewritten. See Dak Prescott in Dallas. Kelly may well have been a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft had it not been for his injuries. In his two seasons at Ole Miss, he had 50 touchdown passes against 21 interceptions – 6 and 0 in two games against Alabama – plus another 841 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing before tearing up his knee on Nov. 5, 2016 against Georgia Southern.
Kevin and Charlene’s kid can play. And Chad’s combativeness seems to have been tamed into feistiness. Both of which will allow Kelly to fit in with a Broncos team filled with strong personalities.
“There’s a lot of charisma on the team,’’ Kelly said. “There’s a lot of great players and to be able to part of such a great organization and great players around me, I mean that’s how you get better. It’s having that charisma every single day and in practice and in games to go out there and be the best.’’