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Mike Boone’s first season in Denver certainly hasn’t gone the way the running back planned.
Signed to a two-year deal in the offseason with $2.6 million guaranteed for 2021, Boone suffered a severe quad injury during a joint preseason practice in Minnesota. He finally made his Broncos debut in Week 6, but mostly as an expensive special teams player for his first four games before finally getting a shot at tailback against Kansas City.
Coach Vic Fangio said Boone — playing behind rookie Javonte Williams on Sunday because of hip/shoulder injuries to Melvin Gordon — graded out solidly after rushing for 35 yards on four carries, along with a 19-yard catch.
“He hadn’t played in a live game since (Aug. 12) with Minnesota — he had no preseason action, no carries or catches in any of the games this year,” Fangio said. “Under those circumstances in an important (divisional) game like that, I think he played really well.”
Boone said the 17 offensive snaps he got in the 22-9 loss to Kansas City “knocked a little rust off” after he only saw seven offensive snaps, and no carries, in his first four games in orange and blue. And his mind never questioned whether his leg would hold up at Arrowhead Stadium from the “freak accident” that derailed his season about three months beforehand. Boone suffered a Grade 3 tear (the most severe) of the quadriceps tendon, but it didn’t require surgery.
“That felt good to come in and contribute and help the team out,” Boone said. “(With the quad injury), out of nowhere I was sprinting and then I felt a sharp pain. That’s what happened. But I’m over it. I didn’t think about that (Sunday) at all while I was running. I felt good out there.”
While Boone’s health is intact, his role in the backfield down the stretch of the season is less clear.
Fangio said Monday he expects Gordon “will be back to practice at some point during the week” as Denver prepares to host the Lions. Through the first 11 games, Gordon and Williams split carries nearly 50/50, with no opportunity for Boone to share any of that workload. And Williams, whom Boone labeled “a stud,” is coming off a big performance against the Chiefs (102 yards rushing, 76 yards receiving and Denver’s lone touchdown).
But No. 26 vowed to stay ready for another chance to show what he can do running the football. Boone’s career high was 49 rushes for 273 yards and two touchdowns in 2019 with Minnesota, when he appeared in all 16 games as the Vikings’ No. 3 tailback behind Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison.
“I’m staying heavy in the training room… and when my number’s called, it’s about executing and being (reliable),” Boone said. “Hopefully (I get more carries), but that’s not my decision. Whenever they call my number, I’ll be there.”
Simmons nominated again. Broncos safety Justin Simmons is the Broncos’ Walter Payton Man of the Year, becoming the only Denver player to earn that award three straight seasons. The award recognizes a player for leadership on the field and in the community.
Simmons will wear a helmet decal throughout the rest of the 2021 season to signify his nomination. The national winner will be announced Feb. 10 during NFL Honors. John Elway is the only Broncos player to win the national award, in 1992.