ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — These are different times for Denver Broncos outside linebacker Bradley Chubb.
The 2018 first-round draft pick is fully healthy for the first time since he was a rookie and he’s entering his contract year. This is the season when Chubb can return as a force in passing while deciding his next contract. And it’s an opportunity to distance yourself from recent battles.
“Injuries, of course, always get you down,” Chubb said. “When you are injured, you feel like you are away from the team. You don’t feel like the person you were brought here to be.
“I had many battles within myself. My (family) knows it, and everyone around me who’s close knows it… It’s been a tough journey, but I’m glad I’m on the other side of it.”
To some, Chubb is known as the player the Broncos selected over quarterback Josh Allen. Chubb went No. 5, and Allen was selected by the Buffalo Bills at No. 7. And it didn’t matter much to critics that Chubb finished third in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting after he collected 12 sacks, or that he was named to the Pro Bowl in 2020 when Von Miller missed the season with an ankle injury.
The hardest part for Chubb has been the injuries. He suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in the fourth game of the 2019 season and missed the remainder of that year. Then, last season, he had to have bone spurs removed from both ankles in separate surgeries, weeks apart, and played in just seven games. As a result, he has missed 24 regular-season games and hasn’t played a full season or finished with more than 7.5 sacks since he was a rookie.
“I’ve said my main thing is to play all 17 games, make an impact in all 17 and make sure I can do that,” Chubb said. “Everyone knows I haven’t been the healthiest player here.”
The Broncos traded Miller to the Los Angeles Rams last November and then signed Randy Gregory in March to a five-year, $70 million deal in free agency — their biggest offseason move this side of the franchise-changing trade for purchased Russell Wilson.
Gregory never played a full season, due to suspensions or injuries, and he never had more than six sacks in any season. He had arthroscopic knee surgery last January and had shoulder surgery shortly after the Broncos signed him.
If the Broncos get that right, Gregory and Chubb could become one of the best passing duos in the league.
“Bradley Chubb is going to have a monster year,” Broncos offensive tackle Garett Bolles said recently. “I saw the moves, I saw the behavior.”
Now it’s just a matter of seeing him get healthy.
“[Chubb] is in a really good spot,” Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said. “The guy just has a lot of ability — that’s always the bottom line. And he’s healthy, and that will allow him to play at his highest level.”
Miller always said it’s Chubb’s speed in a 275-pound body that gives him the opportunity to be one of the league’s elite, if Chubb’s body will just cooperate.
“I just want to finish this year healthy and be able to provide for this team as much as I can — go through everything, the highs, the lows and make sure I’m same brainy guy every time. single day and give my best every day,” Chubb said. “ … That and the sacks, and the handoff, has an impact on a defense that makes those plays and wins. This was what I wanted.”
And if all that happens, momentum could shift to the contract situation, though that’s not a topic Chubb cares to discuss.
“It’s the first offseason he hasn’t had to rehab and not have surgery,” Broncos general manager George Paton said. “We’re seeing the Bradley I thought we were going to get when I got here. [in January 2021]. He is playing with reckless abandon. He looked as good as he did when he had 12 sacks as far as I’m concerned… We’ve loved him here for a long time.”