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Azzanni dish to Stukes leads Broncos to returner Washington

Henningsen suffers calf strain. Rookie to join veteran players for offseason workout Monday as 2022 Broncos are now fully assembled.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Zach Azzanni, the Broncos’ receivers coach, was supposed to be watching tape of Samford’s Montrell Washington as a receiver as part of his assigned preparation for the 2022 NFL Draft.

Only the tape would occasionally flash highlights of Washington’s returns off kickoffs and punts. Washington had four touchdown returns in 2021 – a 55-yard punt return against Furman in Samford’s 2021 spring season, which was a partial makeup for the lost COVID season of 2020, and three more touchdown returns in the regular 2021 fall season. There was a 62-yard punt return for a touchdown in the opener against Tennessee Tech, a 68-yard scoring punt return against Citadel and a 98-yard kickoff return in a late-season game against Florida – yes the Florida Gators – that put Samford up 35-28 in a shootout it would eventually lose.

Azzanni saw so much of Washington, he had to share.

"Coach ‘Z’ said, 'I have a receiver that I like," Broncos’ special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes said Saturday following the team’s rookie minicamp practice. "He’s a small slot receiver. Would you mind watching him as a returner?’ I put the tape on. I know there’s a lot of Florida graduates out there, so I apologize. But anytime you have a kid at Samford that has production verse a big program, it draws your attention, right? So Coach ‘Z’ brought him up, then I went and watched him and I said, ‘This kid has talent.’"

The so-called draft experts who said Washington never should have been drafted, much less in the fifth round where the Broncos took him, didn’t consider the dynamic Washington as a returner nearly enough.

"I’m fearless," Washington said when asked to describe his returning style. "I just think I’m fearless back there. Just catch it and go. It’s like a game, I guess."

RELATED: New-look Broncos offense under Hackett/Outten means passing on run

Credit: AP
Wisconsin Badgers defensive end Matt Henningsen (92) during an NCAA football game on Friday, Aug. 30, 2019 in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Lomoglio)

Bronco Bits

Matt Henningsen, a sixth-round defensive tackle from Wisconsin, had a rough rookie minicamp. On Friday, he struggled with the altitude and had to walk in the final few yards along with a group of offensive linemen during end-of-practice wind sprints. On Saturday, he suffered a strained calf during drills on the far field. He was carted to building by trainer Vince Garcia and limped into the locker room. Henningsen’s injury is not considered serious but he’ll miss a few days. …

Broncos rookies will stick around and join the veterans for workouts Monday. The first OTA (Organized Team Activities) is the following Monday, May 23. …

None of the 11 players who got rookie minicamp tryouts were signed to the Broncos’ roster, which was already full with 90 players.

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