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Risner focused on helping Broncos return to standards he knew in his youth

Back for a second season as Broncos starting left guard, Risner says offseason additions only help if everyone comes together as team.
Credit: AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
Denver Broncos offensive tackle Dalton Risner points to the crowd during an NFL preseason football game between the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers, Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — At least to those who didn’t become emotionally numb by months of stagnant living through the coronavirus pandemic, Bronco fans became mile-a-minute excited about the team’s numerous free-agent signings and draft picks this offseason.

Yet, none other than left guard Dalton Risner, he of the mile-a-minute energy, is downplaying the meaning of a successful offseason when there’s a full month of work and a 16-game regular season ahead.

"We can make offseason additions, we can make draft additions and free agent additions, but that doesn’t mean anything until we work together as a team and we go play the Titans on Monday night," Risner told the Denver media during a Zoom video conference call Thursday.

On offense alone, the Broncos signed running back Melvin Gordon, right guard Graham Glasgow and blocking-receiving tight end Nick Vannett while drafting receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, center Lloyd Cushenberry III and receiving tight end Albert Okwuegbunam.

Credit: AP Photo/AJ Mast
Denver Broncos' Royce Freeman celebrates a touchdown with Dalton Risner (66) and Elijah Wilkinson (68) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, in Indianapolis.

This new talent was added to already promising young core that includes quarterback Drew Lock, receiver Courtland Sutton, tight end Noah Fant, running back Phillip Lindsay, and Risner at left guard.

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New blood and an encouraging finish to last season have Broncos Country hopeful, but Risner tempers with a reminder the team hasn’t done anything yet.

"Man, we’ve got to go out there and prove it," Risner said. "We went 7-9 last year, and we didn’t do what the Denver Broncos are supposed to do. We didn’t uphold that legacy of what we’re about. We’re not a team that wants to go 7-9. …

"I’m excited that we have these new guys that have come in and brought a lot of talent to the table. Drew has grown a lot, and I think we’ve grown as a team in a lot of areas, but we’ve got to be about it.

"Yes, there’s excitement, but right now, we’re working to become more of a team."

Risner was a 16-game starter last season. He wasn’t afraid to speak up – to the contrary, he’s a loquacious, outgoing sort – but he knew his place. He is unique, perhaps, in that he has both a gift of gab and humility.

"Last year, I wanted to pay my dues and I wanted to earn the respect of Von Miller, Ron Leary, Ja’Wuan James and Phillip Lindsay," Risner said. "I wanted to earn the respect of the guys on the team, and I really wanted to fulfill my role as a second-round pick and become a starter.

"I accomplished that and I did start all season. Then I watched some of my film from last year, and to be honest, I shake my head. I’m like, ‘I have so much to improve upon.’"

Credit: AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
Denver Broncos offensive tackle Dalton Risner protects during an NFL football game between the Denver Broncos and the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Denver.

Risner grew up a Broncos fan in rural Wiggins, following the team closely from about 2002, when he was 7 years old, through 2013, when he headed off to Kansas State for five years.

He is more aware of the Broncos once successful tradition than other younger players, who may see a struggling franchise with better days ahead.

"This year, I want to have a good season as a team," Risner said. "That’s my man overall thing. I don’t care if we go 2-14 and I might be a Pro Bowler or an All-Pro. I don’t care. I want to go and be a 12, 14-win team this year and do the things I know we are capable of.

"Of course, as an individual I want to improve on so many areas and that will help us win, whether that’s pulling, being more aggressive on linebackers, having the confidence in myself that I can play in this league and I can come off the ball and drive a guy 5 yards off the ball and not be hesitant.

"I can get into the nitty gritty of the offensive line details and how I want to be better, but most importantly, I want to be better as a team, and I want to get the Broncos back to being playoff contenders and Super Bowl contenders."

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