ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Back on the field after a knee injury wiped out his rookie season, Denver Broncos tight end Jeff Heuerman is working to make his presence felt this season.
Heuerman, the Broncos’ third-round pick out of Ohio State in 2015, has been a full participant in training camp practices and is looking forward to making his NFL debut Thursday, when the defending Super Bowl champions play their exhibition opener at Chicago.
“It’s going to be my first game action in a long time,” said Heuerman, whose last game appearance was for Ohio State in the College Football Playoff national championship, a 42-20 win over Oregon on Jan. 12, 2015.
“The body’s feeling good. The mind is feeling good. I’m just happy to be back out there practicing instead of being in the training room,” Heuerman said after Saturday’s training camp practice.
Heuerman, 23, has worked his way back from a torn ACL suffered in his second workout with the team during a non-contact rookie minicamp that followed the NFL draft. It was his first major injury at any level of play.
“It was just one of those things,” Heuerman said. “But I had great people around me, great friends, coaches, teammates. That all helped me get through it. That’s in the past and I try not to think about it a whole lot and just move forward.”
And the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Heuerman has gained notice early in camp, both with his blocking and receiving. He has been paired frequently with starter Virgil Green at practice when Denver goes to two-tight end sets.
During a red zone practice session earlier this week, the two gave a glimpse of their potential when they caught six touchdown passes between them (Green four, Heuerman two).
For their part, the Broncos hope to garner more offense from the position in general. Though the Broncos rode their dominating defense to a title last season, the passing game struggled at times and Broncos tight ends accounted for only four touchdowns during the regular season.
The team’s leading tight end from their Super Bowl season, Owen Daniels, who had three regular season scoring receptions, was not re-signed.
Heuerman remains anxious to do his part after more than a year away.
“He’s been looking good,” said cornerback Bradley Roby, who played with Heuerman at Ohio State. “He’s a big body. He goes in, does his job. He has great hands and blocks well. I think he’ll be a big piece for our offense this year, for sure.”
NOTES: Coach Gary Kubiak dodged questions on which quarterback would start the exhibition opener. “We’ll have something for you next week,” Kubiak said. Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian are vying for the job with rookie Paxton Lynch also under consideration. … RT Donald Stephenson missed practice because of a left calf strain. Michael Schofield filled in for him at right tackle. … The Broncos on Wednesday evening honored head athletic trainer Steve Antonopulos for his 40 years of service to the organization by presenting him with a portrait painted by Gabe Richesson, brother of strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson. “We wanted to let him know how much we appreciate him,” Kubiak said. “He’s very special.” … The Broncos have a day off on Sunday.
Dennis Georgatos is a reporter for the Associated Press.