ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Garett Bolles proved he could overcome adversity.
Now he must demonstrate he can handle prosperity. A contract extension that includes a $20 million signing bonus and $68 million in total value will raise expectations. When it comes to a player proving himself in the NFL, it’s always something.
“No, you can’t let that pressure you,’’ Bolles said in a sit-down interview with 9News this week. “That’s a blessing. I signed my contract. It’s over. It was a very emotional 48 hours leading up to game time (against the Saints last Sunday), knowing I’m about to sign here to not having a quarterback to playing a game and running the ball every play.
“That was very emotional. I didn’t sleep much on Friday. But at the same time I had to get ready for a game. My agent (Chase Callahan) did a phenomenal job of structuring my contract so I can finish out these last 5 games on a high note and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to continue to fight, fight for what is right and get this team in the direction we belong.”
Wonder what Khalil Mack thought of Bolles’ new deal. The lowest point in Bolles’ career was the second quarter of the Broncos’ second game of the 2019 season, when he was flagged for holding Mack, Chicago’s exemplary pass rusher, three times in the second quarter alone, four times in the game.
Bolles was flagged for holding 13 times last year with six accepted, and not only did the Broncos’ decision-makers not pick up his $11.064 million fifth-year option for 2021, the team’s fan base and many from the local media believed general manager John Elway should find another left tackle during the offseason.
Patience was rewarded. Through 11 games this season, Bolles has only been called four times for holding with just one accepted.
“The low point was the way I was playing,’’ Bolles said. “Be it second string or third string, that’s the way I was playing. I wasn’t playing like a starter. I take full responsibility on that. I believe I was a starter. They drafted me to be a starter and I have to play like that and I wasn’t. And I take full responsibility. That’s one thing you know about me, I’m always accountable. And I hold myself to a high standard, that’s how I’ve always been growing up.’’
Bolles had said in a media conference call Monday that the team’s decision not to pick up his fifth-year option “hurt me.” But by not picking it up, Bolles will make $21 million in 2021, not the option salary of $11.064 million. The extra $10 million should help the pain go away.
“Hey man, I’m just thankful to be here,’’ said Bolles, who didn’t like talking contract before negotiations started last week, and would rather not talk about it now. “I’m emotional and beyond grateful for the opportunity that they put their trust in to me to continue to hold that franchise left tackle spot and I’m just looking forward to the many more memories and getting back to where we belong.
“I think they have always believed in me. I think they just knew it would take time for me to develop. They were hoping that I would. I kept telling them just hang in there with me. I’m grateful they kept their trust in me and it paid off for both sides.
“I don’t think there was a point that got me (turned round). I’m a fighter. You go through my whole life and you guys all know I’ve had my ups and downs, I’ve been punched in my face, I’ve been kicked, I’ve been buried, you name it. I’ve down paths that’s been hard for people to get out of. But I’m a person when I set my mind to something I’m determined to go get it. That’s how my family is, that’s how I am. I know if I continue to do that I’m going to be successful in football and successful as a husband and a father.’’
Perhaps because he had a checkered family structure growing up in Utah, Bolles credits his wife Natalie, son Kingston and daughter Ariyah for his success now.
“My family is what pushes me,’’ he said. “Those three are behind me in my corner, cheering me on and telling me, go daddy and keep going. That’s the fire that continues to burn.’’
Consistently graded among the top 3 offensive tackles by Pro Football Focus this year, Bolles has to be a strong candidate for the NFL’s Most Improved Player award that is voted on by writers. Anything besides the support of his family he credits for his turnaround as a left tackle?
“I did a lot of things. I worked on set. I worked on my hands. I got stronger. I got bigger and faster. I slept better, I ate better,’’ Bolles said. “I did all the little things, I think that’s what was the most important. My motto has always been it doesn’t matter how you start, it’s how you finish.’’
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Bolles still has two main areas of unfinished business. One is to continue to stack well-played games week after week, year after year so that he’s satisfactorily judged over his career, not just his 2020 season. And two, he wants his team to start stacking more wins. Since he became the Broncos’ first-round draft pick in 2017, the Broncos have finished with records of 5-11, 6-10, 7-9 and so far 4-7 entering their game Sunday night as 14-point underdogs to the Kansas City Chiefs.
“Having a season like this, yeah, it’s a bummer,’’ Bolles said. “I want to win. I’m eager to win, I’m eager to help the team win. But at the same time when you’re having a season like this, as long as you’re playing well and doing your job, people see that and see you’re helping your team.
“I hate losing. But, I know if I continue to protect Drew (Lock) and keep his jersey fresh, these things are going to turn around. We have a young team, a lot of young talent. A lot of guys who are explosive. If we continue to get those playmakers the ball then the sky’s the limit for this team.’’
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