DENVER — He is the safety net.
While the Broncos lack high profile games, playoff berths and winning seasons, one player provides them national recognition: safety Justin Simmons.
A core player and leader, Simmons earned second-team All-Pro honors for the second time in his career on Friday. Simmons was the lone Broncos player recognized. Punter Sam Martin received on vote, but did not make the first or second teams.
Simmons, 28, appeared in all 17 games, posting five interceptions, 80 tackles and a career-high 1.5 sacks. He produced his biggest plays in wins against Dallas, Washington and Detroit with picks and fourth-down stops.
The former Boston College star and 2016 third-round draft was a Pro Bowl snub, so Friday's honor provides some satisfaction. Former Denver coach Vic Fangio and defensive coordinator Ed Donatell heaped praise on Simmons, describing him invaluable because of his intangibles, communication and athleticism.
"I speak for Justin. Justin is the type of guy — he doesn’t want to talk about Pro Bowls,” Donatell said a few weeks ago. “He wants to talk about what he can do to help this team get back to the Super Bowl. All his energy is to that kind of thing. That’s how he works. As far as the deep part of the field — middle safety — his abilities are unmatched, and he has the production to verify that. He’s the catalyst of this defense.”
With no Pro Bowlers and only Simmons as an All-Pro, it speaks to the challenge facing the Broncos as they continue to accrue talent and build around the safety, receivers Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton, and left tackle Garett Bolles.
Simmons remains dedicated to returning the Broncos to relevancy after the team missed the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season.
"I just want to start by saying, I want to apologize to Broncos Country and the fans. I know the last few years have been tough to watch and not winning and not being in the postseason. Believe it or not, it’s tougher to play in those games and to not win when you put in everything you do throughout the week. With that being said, my goal — obviously with the extension but ever since I’ve been here and have slowly been taking on a leadership role, is to get back to where this organization is used to," Simmons said. "It doesn’t mean much saying it right here or right now, but we’ll remember this down the road when we get there."