ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — On a weekly basis in the NFL, good roster news is often followed by bad, and rough developments are followed by good.
The Denver Broncos absorbed a blow Saturday night when inside linebacker Jonas Griffith, a starter since the final month of last season, suffered a dislocated elbow and is expected to be out four to six weeks.
General manager George Paton reacted Monday by activating outside linebacker Randy Gregory and offensive lineman Billy Turner from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and signing veteran inside linebacker Joe Schobert to help replace Griffith.
Gregory was the Broncos’ top free-agent acquisition in March as the former Dallas Cowboy was signed to a five-year, $70 million contract that guarantees him $14 million in both the 2022 and 2023 seasons. He had arthroscopic knee surgery a day or two after the Cowboys' Jan. 16 playoff loss to San Francisco. The scope repaired some relatively minor meniscus damage and then before agreeing to his new deal, the Broncos’ medical team decided it would be best if Gregory underwent surgery to repair the rotator cuff in his right shoulder.
He had been sidelined since, working out on his own until now, when he has been cleared for individual drills in practice.
"As far as the shoulder goes, it was something I've been dealing with two, maybe three years now,'' Gregory said in his first Broncos' in-person press conference Monday. "It got to the point where it was kind of hindering my play so definitely it was something (surgery repair) important to do long-term. Still working through some kinks but I should be ready to go."
Was he worried the shoulder exam, and subsequent decision to have surgery, would blow up his lucrative agreement with the Broncos?
"I wouldn't say blow up,'' Gregory said. "Obviously, with any injury you want to handle it the right way. I've been playing with it for so long I kind of wanted to fight through it. Like I said, for the long-term it was for the better, both for me and for the team. Obviously with the knee scope it made it hard, initially getting started. But I think I tend to repair really well."
Gregory is not expected to participate in 11 on 11 team drills this week. All rehab plans are to have Gregory ready to start in the season opener Monday night, Sept. 12, against Russell Wilson’s former Seahawks in Seattle.
"That's the plan,'' Gregory said. "Today is a big step.''
The situation is similar for Turner, who started the previous four years for the Green Bay Packers, where current Broncos’ head coach Nathaniel Hackett served as offensive coordinator the previous three seasons. Turner signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal ($2.2 million guaranteed) this offseason with the Broncos primarily because he wanted to continue to play for Hackett.
"Am I mentally ready and prepared?'' Turner said. "That's what these next four weeks are going to be about for me, getting to a point where I feel as if I'm ready to go on the field and play a football game for 60 minutes."
Once Turner is cleared for physical contact and team drills, he is expected to compete with Calvin Anderson and Cam Fleming at right tackle. Or Turner could move inside to left or right guard, where he's also started NFL games.
"Every time I think I'm playing one position, I end up at another,'' Turner said. "There is time. I can go and play any of those positions kind of at a drop at the hat. That's kind of how my career has been. More than anything it's going to be getting back on the field, and getting a feel for the tempo and movement and timing with everything. And once I get that back it doesn't matter what position I'm playing."
Fleming took most -- not all, but most -- of the first team reps Monday at right tackle.
"It's always a work in progress,'' Fleming said after practice. "Every day is a big day. You've got to go out here and show it every day."
Schobert, 28, was a fourth-round pick by the Cleveland Browns in the 2016 NFL Draft. He started 3 ½ seasons there, then signed a whopping free-agent contract with Jacksonville that paid him $15.1 million in 2020 alone. After one season, the Jaguars under since fired head coach Urban Meyer surprisingly traded Schobert to Pittsburgh for a sixth-round draft pick. Schobert started 15 games for the Steelers last season, but was released in March for financial reasons.
Not only did he sign Monday with the Broncos for a veteran minimum deal of one year, $1.19 million, he got first-team reps alongside Josey Jewell on his first day.
"They told me it would be that way because I didn't play on Saturday, Josey didn't play on Saturday so they said, "You guys are going to get the most reps,'' Schobert said. "We're going to throw you in there, get your feet hot. I didn't really know what I was doing out there but I was running around, having fun."
Schobert has since moved to the Denver area and worked out for the Broncos a couple weeks ago. At the time, it was a check to see where he was physically in case the team had a linebacker need in the future. The need arose when Griffith suffered his elbow injury on the second play of the Broncos’ preseason game Saturday against the Cowboys.
Josey Jewell is one Broncos’ starting inside linebacker with Schobert now seemingly already ahead of Alex Singleton and Justin Strnad for the other. Singleton is on a one-year contract after he lead the Philadelphia Eagles in tackles each of the previous two seasons. Strnad was a Broncos’ 5th-round draft pick in 2020 who started five games last season.
To make roster room for Schobert, the Broncos waived/injured veteran offensive lineman Ben Braden. A backup the previous four years with the Packers, Braden followed Hackett to Denver. Braden did not play in the Broncos’ preseason game Saturday.
Running back Melvin Gordon III returned to practice Tuesday, six days after suffering a foot contusion. ...
Backup offensive guard Netane Muti underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last week and will be sidelined three to four weeks. ...
Rookie receiver Brandon Johnson got some love Monday, lining up along with Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy during most of team drills. Johnson had four catches for 64 yards in the Broncos' 17-7 preseason win Saturday against Dallas.
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