DENVER — During his first tour with the Broncos, Billy Turner blended in on the field even as his ride stuck out off it.
Turner gained an affinity for cars while playing in Miami, and his SS 1971 Chevelle shone brightly in the Broncos parking lot. It served as a metaphor for his time in Colorado. He was comfortable.
So when he became a free agent last month, he buckled his seat belt and raced back to Denver, drawn by the city, but more importantly, his relationship with coach Nathaniel Hackett, his coordinator in Green Bay the past three seasons.
“It’s special. Anytime you get to play for a great organization like the Denver Broncos, it’s always a special thing. On top of that, being able to play for one of the better people that I’ve met in this industry and someone who I consider one of my great friends in this league -- Coach Hackett and some of the other guys that were also in Green Bay. You can’t pass up on a situation like that,” Turner said.
“I just think me and Hackett are cut from a similar cloth. We were able to have conversations that aren’t specifically about football. We can talk about everyday life situations. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in the world. We can talk about whatever. He’s just one of those bright positive souls that I’ve fortunately had the great pleasure of meeting in this industry."
Turner, 30, brings experience and adaptability. When he left the Broncos in 2018, he profiled as a guard. He started there originally for Green Bay, but snared the No. 1 right tackle spot in 2020. In one game, he started at right tackle and switched to left at halftime because of an injury, a scenario that reminds him to take nothing for granted.
“I personally don’t have any expectations. I learned a long time ago not to go into any year or any game with any type of expectation. You can talk to coach Hackett about that. It’s funny because when I was in Green Bay, you might get to a Wednesday or Thursday and then you find out that you have to play a different position. That’s just the norm for me. I honestly have no expectations for any position for me to play. I can play all of those positions. I’m comfortable at all those positions,” Turner said.
“I personally wouldn’t pick one over the other because my goal is to help the team win football games and bring another championship to Denver. However I can best do that is where I’m going to be.”
Speaking from the owners meetings in Florida this week, Hackett praised Turner as a person and a player. He believes he can help the Broncos.
“He brings versatility,” Hackett said.
Turner’s experience in the offense is invaluable. The outside zone run blocking scheme is nuanced. As such, Turner could find himself bringing others up to speed, while protecting the scampering feet of Russell Wilson.
“It’s going to be very similar to Green Bay. I understand Hackett’s mindset and offensive philosophy. My attributes as a player are my athleticism. I’m not a bigger guy. I’m not slow and I’m quick on my feet. I’m able to move and I’m athletic,” Turner said.
“I use that to my advantage in the run game and in the pass game while also knowing Russell is athlete himself, with being able to make plays outside of the pocket. I think that’s going to work to my advantage and his advantage also, to stay locked up with defensive edge and defensive lineman as he rolls out of the pocket.”
Wilson lifted a veil of darkness with his arrival in Denver. The nine-time Pro Bowler spent last week working with a gaggle of tight ends and receivers at his San Diego compound. Jerry Jeudy was unable to make that session. So perhaps as no surprise, he found himself catching passes from Wilson this week.
The Broncos have missed the playoffs the past six seasons. The Jets are the only other team that can say that. Wilson, who is expected to host teammates again in July before training camp, has made the Broncos relevant again.
“Wilson is a Hall of Fame player. He’s one of the better quarterbacks to ever play this game. With that being said, the entire team is not going to rest on Russell Wilson’s back. That’s not how a team works. There’s no one person that figures this whole thing out and that’s the best part about a football team. Getting to know Russ a little bit, that’s the one thing that I have seen in him. He knows how to command certain things that he wants to get done, but at the same time, we've all got to play our part and play our role for the team to be successful,” Turner said, before adding, “When you’re looking at teams and you look at situations and you look at quarterbacks out there, Russell is one of those dudes that’s going to win you a handful of games by himself. That’s the type of caliber player that he is.”
Gregory undergoes surgery
A source confirmed that Broncos outside linebacker Randy Gregory underwent arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder recently to repair a rotator cuff issue that could sideline him for the entire preseason. The Broncos were aware of the injury when Gregory took his physical and signed a five-year, $70-million contract with $28 million guaranteed. He could have used treatment and rest. However, the decision was made for surgery as a longterm solution to allow Gregory to play without pain this season
Gregory is expected to be “full go” for the regular season opener. The Broncos are counting on Gregory and Chubb to revive the pass rush. The Broncos finished with 36 sacks last season, 19 shy of the league-leading Pittsburgh Steelers.
Gordon door remains open
The Broncos remain interested in re-signing running back Melvin Gordon, continuing to talk to the free agent. Hackett spoke this week about the need to have a stable of running backs. Gordon told Denver7 recently he is open to returning, but it would come down to an agreeable number on the contract. The Broncos are not looking to overspend after Javonte Williams showed he was ready for a bigger role after his terrific rookie season.