ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — With NFL teams poring over his college film, Cody Latimer went out for a run one cold day in January and felt a pop in his left foot.
An X-ray revealed a broken fifth metatarsal, which required surgery.
That meant he couldn’t do anything but the bench press at the NFL scouting combine in February.
But it didn’t keep him from running a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash at Indiana’s pro day in March. Nor did it prevent the Denver Broncos from selecting him in the second round of the NFL draft earlier this month.
It is, however, keeping the Broncos from turning the wide receiver loose on the football field at their rookie minicamp this weekend.
“We’re going to be smart with his foot,” coach John Fox said.
The Broncos aren’t taking any risks on their big wide receiver whom they have big plans for this season.
Latimer is just in the early stages of learning the Broncos’ complex offense and doing mental repetitions while running half-speed along the sideline while his fellow rookie receivers such as Michigan State’s Bennie Fowler and Fresno State’s Isiah Burse, two undrafted free agents who were with him at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, run routes full-speed on the field.
“I’m eager, but you know that’s good. I get to get mental reps and learn from everyone else, seeing what everybody else is doing and how to get coached up from their mistakes — and hoping that when I come out here and I’m able to run I don’t make those mistakes,” Latimer said Saturday.
“So I’m doing a lot of learning and doing a lot of mental reps, so it’s good for me.”
Asked whereabouts he is in the healing process, Latimer said, “It’s healing. (We have) great trainers here. They are doing a good job of supporting me and making sure I’m doing the right things so I’m healthy for (training camp).
Then, the Broncos will get to see firsthand the unusual mix of size, speed and strength to go with uncanny blocking skills and superb hands that made general manager John Elway move up in a trade with San Francisco to take the 6-foot-2, 215-pound receiver in the second round.
Offensive coordinator Adam Gase said he loved what he saw in Latimer when he watched his college film.
“Obviously a big guy. His height-weight-speed was very impressive, and then the way that he plays the game is a little different than probably a lot of receivers out there, especially in the NFL,” Gase said.
“He’s a physical specimen, and when he plays, he plays his size. To see him catch the ball as well as he does and then his blocking is unbelievable. I don’t think I’ve really seen a college guy go after it the way he has, and hopefully he just carries that over to this level.”
Latimer won’t just be asked to free up fellow pass-catchers on pick plays the way Eric Decker used to, though.
Latimer grew up on the hardwood and brings basketball skills to the gridiron, which the Broncos can sorely use close to the goal line.
Gase said he relishes the thought of putting Latimer opposite Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders near the goal line to give Peyton Manning another option and defensive coordinators even more headaches.
“I think I saw him — 50-50 balls, he came down with it every time,” Gase said. “That’s a dimension that we’re always looking to improve on, especially in the low-red area. That was probably one part of our red-area game we struggled on, where we probably kicked too many field goals inside the 5 (-yard line).”
BY ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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