Justin Simmons is entering his eighth NFL season after missing the playoffs in his previous seven.
That’s a surprise considering he was drafted by the Denver Broncos less than three months after their 2016 Super Bowl victory.
The Broncos’ playoff drought is the second longest in the league. The drought was supposed to end last season with the successful Russell Wilson trade, but Denver’s 5-12 record was probably the biggest disappointment in the league.
So, they renewed their coaching staff and hired Sean Payton.
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«So far it’s been great. We’ve only had OTAs with him this offseason, and it’s been great getting to know him, getting to know his coaching style a little bit. And you get really excited about camp and then preseason.» in the season,» Simmons said in a recent interview with Fox News Digital.
«It’s been really cool, it’s been amazing, super educational and like I said, I can’t wait for the season to start.»
Payton is Simmons’ sixth head coach, including interim Jerry Rosburg from last season, in the NFL. The 29-year-old admitted that learning so many different coaching styles in such a short time is «difficult», but his teammates are ready to return to football in January.
«What makes it great is the guys in the locker room, and you realize how important every relationship is,» Simmons said. «I see it day after day, guys shedding blood, sweat and tears heading into the season.
«Even if you come up short, you see the work that’s going on and you can appreciate it. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t roll your way, and that’s what excites me about Sean’s coming on, and [Russell Wilson] looking forward to the second year with us and [Vance Joseph] coming back. I have all the defense and things like that, new additions here and there. Every season is really a new team, a breath of fresh air. So you can look back on years gone by, but really, going into a new season, everything is brand new from top to bottom, so I’m very excited about that.»
The ball almost never bounced the right way for Denver last year. His 29 total touchdowns were tied for the second-worst mark in football, and his 16.9 points per game ranked dead last. To make matters worse, the Broncos didn’t have their first-round pick because of the Wilson trade.
Simmons is a Pro Bowl safety, so there’s not much he can do offensively, but he’s stopped dwelling on what was and what could have been.
«I think there’s a lot of things you can say about last season, but it’s one of the things I love most about football. You only play 17 games. If you win, it’s great, you see the movie and you have to move.» to next week. If you lose, you learn from your mistakes, watch the movie, and then you still have to move on to the next week. Next Sunday will arrive, whether you like it or not. No matter what happens in that game, you forget about last week.
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«Same thing year after year: 2022 was 2022. Obviously, you’ll be asked about it, questions will come up, but that year ended with: 2023, new team, obviously new manager. There’s a ton of new ones. We’re excited to get 2023 off the ground and compete. Obviously, it’s already been a work in progress, but we’re excited to compete.»
Simmons says making the playoffs is his «No. 1 priority» and he doesn’t have to look far to find some motivation. Empower Field at Mile High is less than a mile from Ball Arena, where the Denver Nuggets won their first NBA title last month.
He has spent his entire career in the rarified air of Denver, which, like other parts of the country, has had its share of sleazy thanks to the wildfires. Simmons partnered with USAA and the Denver Fire Department to raise awareness about the wildfires. Colorado leads the US in wildfires, with almost 90% of them last year being caused by humans.
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«They’ve been really good the last couple of years, so the fans, being in town the last couple of years, it’s been great to see them put it all together this year and obviously go for the championship,» Simmons said. of the Nuggets.
«For me, thinking about it, this is a city run by the Broncos, and I saw the end of it when I came here as a rookie after winning Super Bowl 50. All I want is to make it to the postseason and experience that and compete for the highest level that exists. So, I’m looking forward to that.»