For Demaryius Thomas, it needed to be said, not done.
The Broncos’ long-tenured wide receiver was fresh off his worst NFL season since 2012 when his new boss issued a very public challenge.
“I want ‘88’ — that’s what I call him — I want him to be a dominant player all the time,’’ Broncos coach Vance Joseph said in March at the NFL owners’ meetings. “I don’t want him to ease into games. I want him to be a guy. I want him to step out and be a guy. It’s time.’’
Dominant is not what you’d call Thomas last year. He was still very much productive, catching a team-high 90 passes for 1,083 yards, but a nagging hip injury ultimately diminished his explosiveness and ruined his conditioning. Joseph’s call-out topped the trash heap that was 2016.
But the harsh words resonated with the prideful Thomas, who’s grateful Joseph would go there, that he’d have the guts to say what others — such as predecessor Gary Kubiak — might not have.
And on Thursday, he finally responded.
“It’s about time somebody said it,” Thomas remarked following Week 1 of Organized Team Activities. “I am looking forward to facing one-on-one coverage again. There’s going to be a lot of people running wide open in this offense.”
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With the additions of rookie wide receivers Carlos Henderson and Isaiah McKenzie and veteran running back Jamaal Charles, to go with his partner-in-crime Emmanuel Sanders, Thomas should get his wish of man coverage in 2017.
To better hedge his bets, Thomas, now fully healthy, has hit the weight room hard in recent weeks. During Thursday’s press conference, reporters took note of his hulking, tree trunk-like biceps. Funny what some time off could do to the body.
“This is damn near the best I’ve felt in my whole career,” Thomas said. “I am happy to have the old offense back.”
The “old” offense run by “new” coordinator Mike McCoy likely will propel Thomas back into the ranks of the elite, provided he gets a semblance of stable quarterback play. That’s simply the talent Thomas is.
You don’t issue that kind of challenge to just anyone.
“He’s a great player,’’ Joseph said in March. “He can take over a game, but I want his mindset every game to be every game we play to walk on the field and take over the game. Again, running the football will force them to load up the box and give him one-on-one opportunities. I want him to win every one-on-one. I want him to become a leader of our football team.”
If his physique is any indication, Thomas is fully embracing the opportunity.