ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Trevor Siemian broke into a wide grin when asked about seeing Jake Butt line up and finally run some routes this week.
The versatile tight end from Michigan blew out his right knee against Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Now healthy, he could be the elixir for much of what’s ailing a sputtering offense that’s managed a single touchdown in each of the Broncos’ last three games.
Butt can open up the middle of the field, take pressure off Demaryius Thomas and help the offensive line keep Siemian safe.
Coach Vance Joseph isn’t sure how much Butt will add to or change the offense, “but we drafted Jake because he was a playmaker and he was a blocker, also. And that’s rare to find a young tight end who can block and catch balls. He’s a big target. He can run vertically. He’s got great ball skills.”
Siemian likes the sneak peek so far.
“It was good,” Siemian said of Butt’s practice debut . “I had to give him a hard time every now and again, first time being out there, but it was good.”
The Broncos even told Butt to hit the brakes.
“We had to tell him to slow down a few times,” offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said Thursday. “But it’s great. You love his mind-set, you love the way he prepares, you love everything about him. So, we’re excited to get him out there whenever he’s ready to go.”
Winner of the 2016 John Mackey Award bestowed on the nation’s top tight end, Butt was heralded as the headliner of this year’s bumper crop of tight ends that was compared to the 1983 QB class. But he didn’t join O.J. Howard, Evan Engram and David Njoku as first-round flashes, slipping instead to the fifth round where Broncos general manager John Elway grabbed him with the 145th overall pick.
Unlike several other teams who felt Butt would basically need a redshirt year in the pros, the Broncos medical staff was confident he’d be back by midseason.
More than nine months after undergoing surgery to repair his torn ACL, Butt made his practice debut this week. The Broncos (3-2) can activate him anytime but it’s almost certain he won’t play Sunday against the Chargers (2-4).
“He hasn’t played enough football to play an NFL game,” Joseph said, “so, hopefully he continues to get in football shape and he can play next week or the week after.”
Butt may not have his stamina yet but he said “it felt good to shake off some of the rust.”
“In terms of knowing the offense, I feel pretty good,” he said. “It just feels good to be back out there and get the chance to do my job.”
LYNCH UPDATE: Joseph said quarterback Paxton Lynch is throwing every day now as he builds strength in his sprained throwing shoulder.
“He’s still a little sore after he throws, so it’s not totally healed yet,” Joseph said. “We’re going to take it slow with him to make sure he’s right before he comes back to play.”
Lynch seems a prime candidate for IR with Ray and Butt primed to return to the active roster, but Joseph demurred when asked if he could keep three QBs.
“I’m concerned about today and tomorrow and Sunday,” Joseph said. “When that time comes we’ll discuss it but everything’s possible, right?”
COLORFUL TALIB: The Chargers will wear powder blue this weekend, so Aqib Talib said his favorite jerseys were the creamsicle ones he wore in Tampa Bay at the start of his career.
“They’re real smooth, old school, remind you a lot of the Sapp-Ronde dominant days,” he said.
Many NFL fans consider those the ugliest.
“Nah, they don’t know how to wear them,” countered Talib. “Look at my films. When I had them on, I looked nice.”
Notes: Thomas returned to practice Thursday after taking a day off to rest his sore right calf. … LB Brandon Marshall (shoulder) and TE A.J. Derby also returned to practice. Derby missed Wednesday to attend the birth of his daughter. … Joseph on Siemian’s diving miss on Janoris Jenkins’ pick-6 that sent the QB to the locker room to check on his left shoulder: “I don’t blame Trevor for trying to tackle a guy. He should try that.”
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton