Op­po­nents should brace for Charles be­ing A-OK

Vet­eran tail­back: “There isn’t any ques­tion I can still play.”

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nicki Jhab­vala

For the last two days at Bron­cos train­ing camp, vet­eran run­ning back Ja­maal Charles has sported a brace on his sur­gi­cally re­paired right knee un­der the premise that if it doesn’t work for him, he will scrap it.

“But right now, it’s a safe plan for me,” he said. “To build con­fi­dence back up with my knee.”

It’s a test pe­riod for the brace, and Charles is tak­ing it slowly. Just as the Bron­cos are tak­ing it slowly with Charles as he works his way back from mul­ti­ple knee surg­eries that hin­dered his fi­nal two years with the Kansas City Chiefs.

With each day, he is run­ning more, mak­ing sharper cuts, of­ten talking with younger backs to the side about their routes and find­ing their open­ings in Mike McCoy’s of­fense.

But the true tests will come soon, when the Bron­cos strap on pads Sun­day and when pre­sea­son games be­gin next month. The Bron­cos signed Charles in May to an in­cen­tive-laden, one-year deal. To get his full cut, Charles has to win a ros­ter spot and main­tain it. But both are hop­ing he regains more: his sta­tus as one of the NFL’s shifti­est and ex­plo­sive backs.

And in the wake of the Bron­cos los­ing sec­ond-year pro Devon­tae Booker to a wrist in­jury for at least six weeks, the time and op­por­tu­nity are ripe for Charles.

Charles was cleared for full par­tic­i­pa­tion at train­ing camp, but head coach Vance Joseph made it clear that the train­ing staff and coach­ing staff wouldn’t rush him back. The vet­eran is ea­ger to do so fully.

“I told them I def­i­nitely want to do more,” he said. “Right now, I’m happy with the sys­tem. They’re tak­ing their time with me and I told them I want to do a lit­tle bit and get hit. I want that, just to get my con­fi­dence up and see how my knee feels in pads and make peo­ple miss. What­ever they tell me to do, I’m just do­ing it day by day.”

Although he and the rest of of­fense are still work­ing out the kinks in McCoy’s sys­tem, Charles said it re­minds him of the one they ran at Kansas City with coach Andy Reid. In his nine sea­sons as a Chief, Charles had five years of at least 1,000 yards rush­ing and, de­spite play­ing only eight games over the last two years, leads all NFL backs in ca­reer rush­ing av­er­age at 5.45 yards per carry.

“I like the of­fense a lot,” Charles said of Den­ver’s play­book. “There are a lot of open­ings where guys get into space and C.J. (An­der­son) is split­ting out. He’s get­ting the run­ning backs out in space, so it’s a nice setup.”

Get­ting back to the player who ran for 1,033 yards and nine touch­downs in 2014 — or close to it — has long been the goal for Charles. Re­gain­ing the strength and con­fi­dence in his legs that he had be­fore his ACL tear in 2015 is the plan.

For now, he’s tak­ing it slowly and with ex­tra pre­cau­tion. But maybe not for long.

“There isn’t any ques­tion I can still play. I know I can still play,” he said. “The main thing is know­ing the play­book and con­trol­ling what I can con­trol.

“I told the guys in the locker room, ‘When I see one of you kids beat me, it’s time for me to give up.’ ”

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