ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos braced themselves for a second straight season without their steadiest wide receiver and locker room leader after Tim Patrick was carted off the field with a left Achilles injury Monday — almost a year after tearing his right ACL at training camp.
“It’s a tough break for us as a team when you see something like that, a great player, a great leader,” cornerback Patrick Surtain II said. “We wish him the best and just go on from there.”
With an energized crowd of 3,000 looking on as the Broncos practiced in full pads for the first time, Patrick hit the ground in pain just as he came out of his cut on a short route during a seven-on-seven passing drill. He threw his helmet as teammates including Courtland Sutton and Russell Wilson rushed to his side.
The injury happened right in front of head coach Sean Payton, who was watching Patrick make an adjustment from a previous route.
“It’s always difficult, especially a guy like that’s a leader who’s coming off an entire year of rehabilitation,” Payton said. ”It’s difficult for his teammates, for all of us. So, maybe, hopefully we get some good news. But it appears it’s his left Achilles.”
After being carted off, Patrick entered the Broncos facility on crutches, keeping weight off his left leg.
Patrick is known for his strong work ethic and no-nonsense approach. He was one of the more notable finds by the Broncos in recent years.
Undrafted out of Utah in 2017, Patrick bounced around the Ravens’ and 49ers’ practice squads before arriving in Denver later that year. He became a contributor in 2018 and ’19 before posting back-to-back productive seasons that earned him a three-year, $34.5 million contract extension in November 2021.
He was the team’s No. 1 receiver going into last season when he tore his right ACL in a noncontact drill on Aug. 2. Two months later the Broncos lost their top running back when Javonte Williams suffered a knee injury and Denver’s offense never recovered from the one-two punch, averaging a league-worst 16.9 points a game in Wilson’s first year in Denver.
Like Williams, Patrick was looking for a big comeback in 2023 atop the receiver rotation alongside Sutton and Jerry Jeudy.
“When I got hired here, he was one of the guys I saw every day because he was rehabbing last year’s injury,” Payton said. “So, that’s what makes it more difficult.”
The Broncos do appear to be in better position to weather the loss of Patrick this year if the injury proves to be as serious as suspected.
They bolstered their receiver room, chiefly by drafting speedster Marvin Mims Jr. out of Oklahoma in the second round and signing veterans Marquez Callaway and Lil’Jordan Humphrey in free agency.
“We’ve just got great guys all around the receiving room, so obviously next man up situation,” Surtain said. “But Tim is a big loss, a big blow, because he brings such a presence out there on the field that many people can’t compare to.”
Mims pulled a hamstring in June and suffered a setback before camp, but Monday marked his first practice of camp and Payton was encouraged: “He’s feeling good. You’re going to see him more and more this week. He’s ramping up and we’re encouraged.”
However, another receiver, KJ Hamler, who is on the mend from a torn chest muscle, posted on Instagram on Monday that he was diagnosed with the heart condition pericarditis “after feeling some chest pains while working out on the break before camp started.” He vowed to return to the field as soon as he could “better and stronger than ever.”
Notes: Payton had no comment about Aaron Rodgers’ spirited defense of Jets OC Nathaniel Hackett after Payton ripped him last week for his poor head coaching job in Denver last year. “No, we’re past it,” said Payton, who did a mea culpa last week, saying he regretted criticizing Hackett, the Jets and members of the Broncos’ front office in trying to spread the blame for Wilson’s career-worst season in 2022 during an interview with USA Today.
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