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Melvin Gordon returns, ready to compete with Javonte Williams for 1A running back role

The veteran, who ranks No. 4 among active backs with 6,144 rushing yards, thanked the media for motivating him.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — You’re welcome, Melvin Gordon III.

The Broncos’ veteran running back is participating in the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp this week. In his first two seasons with the Broncos, Gordon compiled two 900-yard rush seasons even though he split carries with Phillip Lindsay in 2020 and rookie Javonte Williams in 2021.

With Williams also producing a 900-yard season as the 1B back in 2021, he figures to have earned a promotion to Gordon’s previous 1A role in his second season. Or so this author and other media members believe, especially after Gordon re-signed at a pay cut from two years and $16 million to one year and $2.5 million. The free-agent market simply wasn’t there for a 29-year-old running back, no matter his most recent production.

“I told (general manager) George (Paton) when I was at the table (to sign his new deal) I told him I’m not going to lay down,’’ Gordon said. “I know a lot of people are wanting me to take a backseat. I get it. It’s been like that for a while. It was like that when I was with the Chargers. Everyone wanted Austin (Ekeler) to start. I just come out here and do my thing. Thanks for the motivation, everybody. I appreciate ya all for the extra motivation. I need it.’’

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Don’t mention it. Thing is, Gordon looks the part of a starting running back. At 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, Gordon is bigger – taller, anyway – than the 5-foot-9 5/8, 215-pound Williams.

And there was one carry upon his return to practice Monday when Gordon just looked different than the other backs. Gordon didn’t get many reps Monday. After skipping the team’s offseason program to work out on his own, Broncos’ head coach Nathaniel Hackett backed Gordon off to one or two reps per team period.

But on one wide zone running play left, Gordon displayed impressive explosion as he cut to the second level. His combination of slashing speed and size brought a reminder of why he ranks No. 4 among active backs (who are currently on a roster) with 6,144 career rushing yards -- behind only Mark Ingram Jr., Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry.

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon (25) celebrates after running back Javonte Williams (33) scored a touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

“The goal is to make them want to play me,’’ Gordon said. “I know we’re going to do our thing—me and ‘Vonte’ are going to do it. I don’t really know how we’re going to do the reps and things like that. The goal right now is to really master the playbook and let things play out. I’m definitely going to be ready to battle. That’s what it is. It’s going to make us better—it did last year. I’m going to continue to do that.

“I don’t care how old people think I’m getting. I feel good. I’ve been sharing the ball since I’ve gotten in the league with running backs, so this is nothing new. I’ve been battling for a while. I think Austin Ekeler is one hell of a back, and I had to battle with him and do the same thing. It’s just my luck, man. I just happen to be paired up with some great backs—fortunately and unfortunately, I would say.”

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