ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Demaryius Thomas, the lone bright spot in Denver’s Super Bowl debacle, isn’t looking back at that night in the Meadowlands when Seattle’s sideline-to-sideline supremacy rendered his record 13 receptions a forgettable footnote.
Nor is the fifth-year wide receiver looking forward to his financial windfall after the upcoming season with general manager John Elway on record saying that Thomas’ contract situation looms as the franchise’s top priority in 2015.
Thomas is all about refining his game and helping the Broncos get another shot at the title that slipped away so spectacularly four months ago with that 43-8 loss to the Seahawks.
If he can help the Broncos become the first team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins to win the Super Bowl the year after losing it, Thomas’ stock will continue to soar.
Money is what broke up the league’s top receiving tandem this spring.
Thomas and Eric Decker teamed to catch 358 passes for 5,216 yards and 48 touchdowns after Peyton Manning‘s arrival in Denver two years ago, but the Broncos couldn’t afford to keep Decker around this offseason, so he signed with the New York Jets for $36.25 million over five years.
“That’s my guy, I miss Deck,” said Thomas, who entered the league with Decker in 2010. “But he went somewhere else and I’m happy for him, and he’s happy. So, it’s OK.”
Thomas swears money isn’t on his mind as he enters his own contract year.
“I never think about that. I haven’t thought about it at all. I don’t even know if Decker was talking about it,” Thomas said. “All we talked about was being able to play with each other again. He wanted to come back, but it just didn’t work out. You really never think about the big payday, or anything like that. We like playing together, and I like playing football.”
Decker was adept at running interference for Thomas, blocking downfield for him and especially freeing him up on pick plays, wiping out defenders with hits just as Thomas was hauling in a pass.
Thomas, who combines speed, strength and size, and honed his blocking skills in the triple-option offense at Georgia Tech, often returned the favor.
With Decker gone, the Broncos signed free agent Emmanuel Sanders and drafted Cody Latimer, who was known at Indiana for his superior blocking ability, although he hasn’t been able to show the Broncos that skill in person yet as he recovers from foot surgery.
“I saw some film on him,” said Thomas, who was impressed. “I’m not going to say he’s D.T., but he’s all right. He can block. I saw some film when we drafted him. He ain’t bad.”
Thomas is equally excited about what Sanders brings to Denver’s receiving corps.
“Sanders is too fast. He’s quick and fast at the same time, ” Thomas said. “… It’s a big pickup for us. I think he’ll be great.”
Thomas is coming off his best season yet, one in which he caught a team-best 92 passes for 1,430 yards and 14 touchdowns. He added 26 catches for 306 yards and three TDs in the playoffs.
His 13 catches (for 118 yards) in the Super Bowl, including Manning’s 100th TD toss with the Broncos, broke the previous mark of 11 shared by Cincinnati’s Dan Ross in 1982, San Francisco’s Jerry Rice in 1989 and New England’s Deion Branch in 2005 and Wes Welker in 2008.
And they came despite a banged-up shoulder that took several weeks to heal.
Thomas takes no solace in his record.
“You know, it was tough man,” he said. “I didn’t even know about the record until later that night, or whatever. My main focus was on the game, because we went out and we didn’t show up at all. Hopefully we can put ourselves in the same situation and try to go out and play better, because I think we’re capable as a team of putting up more than eight points a game and not letting anybody score that many points on us, especially in that game.”
The last team to lose a Super Bowl and make it back was the 1993 Buffalo Bills.
“Anything is possible, but I know for sure it’s not going to be easy,” Thomas said. “There’s a lot of good teams out there. We’ve got a tough schedule, and I think the only thing we can do is worry about ourselves and try to get better and better every day. If we do that, I think we can put ourselves in the situation of even talking about getting back to where we left off.”
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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