Englewood, Colo. — Trevor Siemian broke into a wide grin when asked about seeing Jake Butt line up and finally run some routes this week.
Butt, a versatile tight end from Michigan, blew out his right knee against Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Now healthy, he could be the elixir for much of what’s ailing a sputtering offense that’s managed a single touchdown in each of the Broncos’ last three games.
Butt can open up the middle of the field, take pressure off Demaryius Thomas and help the O-line keep Siemian safe.
Coach Vance Joseph isn’t sure how much Butt will add to or change the offense, “but we drafted Jake because he was a playmaker and he was a blocker, also. And that’s rare to find a young tight end who can block and catch balls. He’s a big target. He can run vertically. He’s got great ball skills.”
Siemian likes the sneak peek so far.
“It was good,” Siemian said of Butt’s practice debut. “I had to give him a hard time every now and again, first time being out there, but it was good.”
The Broncos even told Butt to hit the brakes.
“We had to tell him to slow down a few times,” offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said Thursday. “But it’s great. You love his mind-set, you love the way he prepares, you love everything about him. So, we’re excited to get him out there whenever he’s ready to go.”
Winner of the 2016 John Mackey Award bestowed on the nation’s top tight end, Butt was heralded as the headliner of this year’s bumper crop of tight ends that was compared to the 1983 QB class. But he didn’t join O.J. Howard, Evan Engram and David Njoku as first-round flashes, slipping instead to the fifth round where Broncos general manager John Elway grabbed him with the 145th overall pick.
Unlike several other teams who felt Butt would basically need a redshirt year in the pro ranks, the Broncos medical staff was confident he’d be back by midseason.
More than nine months after undergoing surgery to repair his torn ACL, Butt made his practice debut this week. The Broncos (3-2) can activate him anytime but it’s almost certain he won’t play Sunday against the Chargers (2-4).
“He hasn’t played enough football to play an NFL game,” Joseph said, “so, hopefully he continues to get in football shape and he can play next week or the week after.”
Butt might not have his stamina yet but said “it felt good to shake off some of the rust.”
“In terms of knowing the offense, I feel pretty good,” he said. “It just feels good to be back out.”
Cam takes pass on press
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton declined to speak to reporters for the second consecutive day. Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said Thursday Newton, a former league MVP, gave no explanation as to why he wouldn’t participate in his weekly news conference prior to Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.
Drummond was seen speaking to Newton at his locker for several minutes during the team’s open locker room session. NFL players are subject to fines for not talking to the press.
Newton’s decision comes two weeks after he apologized for comments he said were “extremely degrading and disrespectful to women.”
Jourdan Rodrigue, the female reporter from the Charlotte Observer that Newton’s sexist comments were directed at, returned to work this week after taking time off.
When asked about Newton’s decision to not speak to reporters on Thursday, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said, “I thought he had a press conference today, but apparently not.”
49ers to change QB
The 49ers are making a change at quarterback, hoping rookie C.J. Beathard can provide a needed spark against the Cowboys for a team that has opened the season with six straight losses.
The Cowboys feel fortunate they don’t need to make a change at running back now that Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations is on hold again after the star running back served a day of it waiting for another reprieve that eventually came.
Elliott and the Cowboys will try to spoil Beathard’s starting debut when the Cowboys (2-3) visit the 49ers (0-6) on Sunday.
Fournette ready to play
Jaguars rookie running back Leonard Fournette said his ankle feels good and he “most definitely” will play Sunday at Indianapolis.
Fournette missed a second consecutive practice Thursday because of a sprained right ankle. He expects to do “cutting and stuff” today before coach Doug Marrone decides his status against the Colts.
Fournette ranks second in the NFL with 596 yards. He also has seven touchdowns.
Jameis Winston said his injured right shoulder is “getting better every single day,” but the Tampa Bay quarterback still isn’t throwing in practice.
... After nearly 14 months of arduous rehab for his left knee, Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said, “I definitely believe I’ll play this year, but I can’t just sit here and say it.”
... Washington placed rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Allen on injured reserve after undergoing foot surgery.