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With the popular Lindsay no longer 'in his head,' Gordon ready for big second season in Denver

It wasn't Gordon's fault Broncos paid him good money to take some rushing workload away from Lindsay. Still, Gordon felt awkward replacing local hero.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Phillip Lindsay is in Houston and while he will come back for family and residential reasons, Melvin Gordon III can now run free from the local player’s enormously popular shadow.

“It was in my head a little bit,’’ Gordon admitted Wednesday following Day 2 of Broncos training camp. “But I got over it.’’

Lindsay is the type of running back whom Broncos fans would have loved if he was from Lincoln, Nebraska. He is small, fast and tough with an irresistible smile, big hair and relentless energy. He bounces and smiles when he talks, but he’s also always talks with the intensity of someone who has been counted out. Everyone loves the underdog and Lindsay is the epitome of the term.

Oh, and It didn’t hurt that Lindsay was not from Nebraska but Denver South High School and the University of Colorado.

Undrafted in 2018, he signed with the Broncos and gave them back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. But instead of giving the hometown hero a new contract that paid him the money he deserved based on his on-field production, the Broncos instead gave a two-year, $16 million deal to Gordon, a free agent from the rival Chargers. Ouch.

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon (25) runs against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Gordon’s money didn’t make Lindsay or his legion of fans happy. If it makes them feel any better, Gordon’s money didn’t necessarily make him happy, either.

“I mean it’s pretty self-explanatory,’’ Gordon said when asked to explain what he meant by getting “caught up in it.” “A lot of people love Phil here. It’s as if I got drafted by the Packers or something like that. How the fans would feel, how the media would feel. You’re kind of taking away from their guy.’’

Lindsay suffered more from becoming the 1B back. His production naturally dropped with less work and then he got hurt.

After a slow start, Gordon relaxed and took off in the final seven games, rushing for 547 yards after compiling just 439 through the first nine games.

“Me and him had our conversations,’’ Gordon said. “Phil’s a good dude, a great dude. We still talk. I wish him the best with everything he has going on. I gave my advice to him, I always did even when we were out there. It looked like we were competing against each other and people thought we were bumping heads. I still gave my advice to him because at the end of the day it was bigger than both us. But right now my mindset has been more towards getting to the playoffs rather than what everybody else has been talking about.”

Lindsay is no longer around – after he received a low tender as a restricted free agent, he asked for his release and general manager George Paton did him right by granting the request. He signed a one-year, $3.1 million deal with the Texans while Paton replaced him by drafting highly regarded Javonte Williams in the second round.

Phillip is gone. Here comes Javonte.

“Well, at the end of the day you’re always competing,’’ Gordon said. “They’re always bringing someone in to take your job. That’s the nature of this business. They brought Javonte in here to be a dog. A dog amongst dogs. But we’re going to come in here and compete every day. I’m not worried about that. I got caught up in that last year with Phil. And you know what, it’s not about that. It’s not about that at all. I’m coming out here and I’m thinking about what can I do to help make the team better. What can I do to make myself a better player. That’s what I’m going to do. I have utmost confidence in myself to come out here and work so when I touch the field I do what I need to do when my number is called on. I can’t worry about who I’m competing with.’’

Gordon’s fast finish brought him oh so close to the coveted 1,000-yard milestone last season, but his slow start left him short with 986. Even with Williams and free-agent Mike Boone added to the Broncos’ running back room, Gordon will get another crack at 1,000 this season.

“Melvin like a lot of guys in our offense in particular, second year in our system, we had an offseason, we had training camp, everybody has a little more confidence and a little more efficient operation and execution of the offense,’’ said Broncos’ head coach Vic Fangio. “I think he’s one of those guys. He is a powerful guy and he’s a good runner. And we do want be physical. There’s a narrative out there that ball is being passed a lot more than it used to be in the NFL, and it’s really not that true. I did a study of it this year. From 1980 till now, passing has increased 4.7 percent. So you’ve still got to be able to run it and stop it.”

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