ENGLEWOOD, Colo .– Tight end Jake Butt is roaming the Denver Broncos training camp these days capturing catches and generally running better and faster than he has at any point during his three years with the team. It’s a major step up from where he was last season, recovering from yet another kneeling procedure while facing the void of being separated from his teammates again.
“I wanted to quit,” Butt said.
He didn’t, but the challenges continue this training camp with September 5 cuts looming and a tight end room loaded for the Broncos. Butt will be in the mix and it can be difficult to crystallize the hope the Broncos makers, coaches and teammates have for his success.
“There’s nobody in our locker room who doesn’t want to see Jake Butt succeed,” said Broncos quarterback Drew Lock. “One of the best teammates we have in this dressing room. So he can push and crush all the injuries he’s had. … The guy is playing really good ball. He’s super smart and a little bit smarter. athletic than what people give him. Credit for. “
It’s been a 40-month drive for Butt, who suffered from an excessive amount of issues with his knees. An all-American at the University of Michigan, he’s officially been in the NFL since the Broncos made him a fifth-round draft pick in the 2017 draft, but his resume is only three games – all in 2018. He has eight catches for 85 yards.
Butt was coming out of a torn ACL, suffered in his last college game, when the Broncos picked him up. It was already the second time he had torn his right ACL. He then tore his left ACL during a Broncos practice in Week 4 of the 2018 season.
John Elway once described Butt as “a steal” within hours of being called up to the Broncos, as well as a “best guy in two rounds” with “great ball skills” and a “great road runner” . Last summer, Butt hoped to finally meet those expectations. But pain in his left knee throughout camp eventually led to his meniscus being repaired, resulting in another lost season.
“Guys saw what I’ve been through, and if you’ve been through an ACL you know how difficult it is,” Butt said. “When you go through threes, it means a lot to get that recognition from your comrades, your teammates and your coaches. For me, I’m healthy. It’s part of my story, but I play ball. I don’t watch. step back and I have no excuse for myself. For me, I have to play better and I have to raise my game. I have to go out there and compete every day. The goal for me now is to be part of the ‘team. “
As Butt struggled to get back onto the field, the Broncos went all-in late in the race. They now have four former draft picks in the tight boardroom, including last year’s first-round pick – Noah Fant – who also happens to be TE1. Then last March, the team signed Nick Vannett, who – along with Fant – aligned the most with the starters during training camp.
Position is the most competitive on the team’s current depth chart and deciding who gets a spot on the list will be difficult.
“This is my fifth [NFL] training camp and I can honestly say from top to bottom this is the most competitive venue I’ve ever been to, “said Vannett.” You have guys who can do it all. Not to mention that they are great football players, but they are some of the best guys I have known. … I’m going to be anxious to see what’s going to happen for our venue and for this team because the things I’m seeing right now I’m pretty excited just to think about what’s going to happen down the road. “
Right now, Butt said he’s happy to just work hard in the camp. Going through ACL rehabilitation can be a lonely and difficult place. In fact, an article published in 2016 in the World Journal of Orthopedics described the potential for “ACL depression syndrome” in athletes. This is something Butt saw firsthand.
“It’s probably the hardest thing that nobody really talks about and it’s hard for people to understand,” Butt said. “When you grow up in football and you grow up in sport, you are constantly part of a team and you are constantly part of something bigger than yourself. Then when you get injured you are still part of the team. the team, but it’s that weird thing where you are but you’re not … there were a lot of days I wanted to quit. There were a lot of days where I was really depressed ‘even do that sort of thing. “
He credits his family, teammates and Broncos strength and conditioning coach Loren Landow, who Butt says encouraged him to keep manageable expectations of progress every day with the message “chopping wood.” and carry water ”.
“When you’re tired, wage that mental battle with that person inside of you telling you to stop,” Butt said. “I’m tired after six reps and I need to hit eight, but I’m going to do 10 or 12 today. I’m going to do a little more to completely prove to myself that I can do it, and in fact, I can do more. It appears every day and is something everyone has to do, especially at camp. You are in pain and you are tired and you are tired, but you have to go out there and keep doing the little things and keep practicing and trying to improve. “