By Arnie Stapleton, AP pro football writer
ENGLEWOOD — The Denver Broncos will soon find out whether their roll of the dice on tight end Jake Butt has a chance to pay off this season.
Coach Vance Joseph said Butt will practice next week for the first time, triggering a 21-day window for the team to decide whether to activate him or officially turn his rookie season into a redshirt year.
“I plan on putting my trust in this coaching staff and the trainers,” Butt said Monday. “I feel good. Obviously for me, being a competitor, the sooner I can help this team the better.”
Butt, who tore his right ACL in his final college game, will practice Monday alongside outside linebacker Shane Ray, who’s been out since the first week of training camp with a torn ligament in his left wrist, Joseph said.
Ray is eligible to return to action Oct. 30 against Kansas City. Butt could make his debut a week earlier, against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Butt is a versatile tight end who was considered a first-round pick — maybe even the headliner of a great tight end class — but he slipped to the fifth round after tearing his right ACL against Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
He underwent surgery Jan. 10 to repair the same ACL he tore in 2014.
“It’s been really tough,” Butt said. “The first time I tore my ACL, I missed one game. I came back six months and one week later. I got banged up throughout college. I don’t know. I always say I’m a quick healer. It’s been really tough. It’s been an adjustment having to sit back and watch.
“For me, I just want to feel like I’m contributing to the team and helping this team win. It’s been hard doing that from a distance a little bit behind the scenes. I’m excited to try to earn my fellow teammates’ trust in practice and earn the coaches’ trust.”
Butt, who collected on an insurance policy for slipping down the draft, was the cautionary tale of this year’s draft after running backs Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey skipped their bowl games a year after Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith cost himself millions by blowing out his left knee in the Fiesta Bowl.
Fournette and McCaffrey were both top-10 picks and are already making an impact for the Jaguars and Panthers, respectively.
Butt has always insisted he has no regrets, however.
“I’ll never regret playing in a football game in my life,” Butt said on the day he was drafted.
Butt has had plenty of time to study the playbook.
“I feel really good about the playbook. I’ve been hitting it just as if I were playing. I still watch film with the guys. I quiz myself. I look at the scripts every day and make sure I know what everyone is doing,” Butt said. “It’s going to be an adjustment of course because it’s one thing to do it off to the side or in your head when you’re quizzing yourself, but it’s another thing to hear it in the huddle, get out and then make your necessary adjustments depending on the defense.
“That’s a challenge I’m excited about. I’ve been doing my best to make sure I’m prepared.”
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