DENVER — Bradley Chubb is living life out loud. His smile has returned. Evidence unfurled in full view last Saturday at his free Chubb Foundation football camp at All-City Stadium, his first-ever in Denver.
Chubb ran through drills and taught proper stances while sharing laughs with teammates K.J Hamler and Jonas Griffith.
This is who Chubb was and is again after experiencing his first healthy offseason in years.
"I wanted to do a camp here because this is the city I am playing in. I feel like Sundays that’s all people know me as, on the field and stuff like that. It’s just cool getting out in the community, getting with these kids, letting them run around and showing them I am just a big kid at heart running around doing the same things they are," Chubb told Denver7 in an exclusive interview. "It was fun to be out here. I was happy for the turnout and the volunteers. The Denver Dream Center [church] was amazing in helping us organize everything. These kids wanted to be around these great people and it was great to fulfill some dreams."
When Chubb closes his eyes, he envisions rebounding like Dennis Rodman. Last year was a mess. He underwent surgery on both ankles to have bone chips removed. One occurred in the offseason, which delayed his full participation in training camp. Then he hurt the opposite ankle in the final preseason game, and played through it until the pain literally and figuratively brought him to his knees on a pass rush in Week 2 against Jacksonville.
Chubb, 26, returned after an eight-week absence and never fully regained traction that earned him his first Pro Bowl berth in 2020. He finished with 21 tackles, four quarterback hits, but zero sacks in seven games.
The last number provides motivation as Chubb will be counted on to pair with new addition Randy Gregory — he is returning from shoulder surgery — to make quarterbacks uncomfortable in coordinator Ejiro Evero's new defense.
"We have a chance to be special with the guys we have coming back," Chubb said, "and the new guys we added."
Preparing without rehab has been liberating for Chubb.
"It’s been huge, to be honest with you, just because I am not worried, 'Is this going to be OK?' You have the mindset that, ‘I am good and I am just going to attack everyday like it's my last,' and that’s what I have been doing this offseason, and it’s been working out for me," Chubb said.
So does he believe he's ready to bounce back? Chubb didn't hesitate.
”Yes, sir. I feel it for sure. It was one of those things that you go through so much, you know what I mean? The dam has to break at some point," Chubb said. "I feel like things have been building up and building up and it’s finally time to let it all out."
Chubb, who has 20.5 sacks in 41 career games, understands what is at stake. If he plays well, he becomes a candidate for the franchise tag — it is $18.7 million this season for his position — or a long-term contract as a core player. Chubb is well-liked in the building among teammates and executives. But the NFL is less sympathetic than a parking ticket. It's about production that leads to winning.
"Coach Hackett comes into the meetings with energy, with juice. Our first team meeting, we’ve got guys playing basketball against each other and bringing out that competitive edge. And he brings it over to coaches. You see them racing, or things like that, always competing," Chubb said. "And with Russ — the complete guy he is, the complete player he is — you see it every day he comes into the building. He’s a perfect example of what you should be doing. It’s been fun to have those two guys come in and change everything and, hopefully, it finally gets us over the hump that we have been unable to get over the last few years."
For Chubb, the vibe is contagious. It has left him him eager to return to form, to show the joy that was on display at his football camp.
"I didn’t go to professional camps growing up. I used to go to college camps and they had their athletes out there. I was looking up to them like they were the biggest thing in the world," Chubb said, "On a day like this, I just hope the kids take a smile out of it and have a good time and tell their friends, 'I was hanging out and playing with Bradley Chubb, KJ Hamler and Jonas Griffith.' It's all about them having a great experience."