Charles eager to prove he’s healthy, ready to contribute
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Jamaal Charles doesn’t put all that much stock in his one-game preseason audition this weekend.
In his view, these are the numbers that really need to be considered as he returns from another knee injury: 7,260 career rushing yards, 23 career 100-yard games and a 5.45 yards per carry average — the highest in league history with a minimum of 500 attempts.
“My talent speaks for itself,” Charles said.
The dynamic tailback will receive a substantial workload Saturday night against Green Bay to prove to the Denver Broncos he’s still the same Jamaal Charles. Not that he’s all that concerned.
“Jamaal never went anywhere,” he said after practice Tuesday. “Everybody is making a big deal. It’s football to me.
“I’m just going out there and do what I always do.”
Charles has bided his time this summer following two years of knee troubles that led the Kansas City Chiefs to release their all-time leading rusher in a cost-cutting move over the winter. He’s bulked up to around 204 pounds and said his speed has returned. He will wear No. 28 with the Broncos, instead of his familiar No. 25 (that’s worn in Denver by Chris Harris Jr.).
The 30-year-old is hoping to earn a spot in a crowded backfield that includes C.J. Anderson, rookie De’Angelo Henderson, Stevan Ridley, Juwan Thompson and Devontae Booker, who’s currently sidelined by a broken wrist.
Denver has taken a cautious approach with Charles since he signed a one-year deal in May. The team eased him into action with the goal of having him up and running come September. But Henderson is turning heads and Ridley has quickly gotten up to speed since being brought into camp when Booker got hurt.
The preseason game against the Packers is a big opportunity for Charles to show he’s back to the form that led to three straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons from 2012-14.
“This is going to be Jamaal’s shot to go do his thing,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “He looked great last week. He is wanting to play football. So hopefully, for him, it goes well.”
Charles’ Hall of Fame-caliber career has been derailed the past few years by injuries. He played in just eight games over the past two seasons after tearing his right ACL in October 2015. The Chiefs cut him this winter to save $6 million in salary cap space.
“Every time I step on the field is an opportunity to show people what I can do,” Charles said. “They’ve seen it from me in the present and now in the future.”
When healthy, Charles brings home-run potential with every carry. He’s also a threat in the passing game.
There’s certainly no need to remind Harris of that. He got his fill of watching Charles break off long gains when Charles was with Kansas City.
“He’s one of the most dynamic running backs I’ve faced,” said Harris, who wasn’t around the day Charles rushed for a career-best 259 yards at Denver on Jan. 3, 2010. “Hopefully, he comes out and shows that and makes plays this weekend.”
Anderson hopes for that as well.
“I’m just excited to see the same No. 25 that I grew up watching and then got a chance to play against when he was over there in Kansas City,” Anderson said. “Jamaal is a special player. We know that. … Hopefully, with me and him switching off and on, we can put the one-two punch together.”
Charles insisted his knee injuries are no longer in his mind, saying: “I always believe what’s supposed to happen is what will happen. Right now, I’m going out there to play freely.”