ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Jake Butt has no regrets and one thing to prove.
The former Michigan star and Denver Broncos rookie wants to show he’s the best tight end of the 2017 NFL draft class even though six were selected ahead of him, including three in the first round.
Butt was considered a first-rounder, too, until blowing out his right knee in the Orange Bowl, which caused him to slip to the fifth round.
His new position coach, Geep Chryst, texted him right away and issued a challenge.
“He wants me to prove that I’m the best tight end in this class. That’s why I’m here to work and that’s how I feel,” too, Butt said Saturday after working with Geep on the side at the team’s rookie minicamp. “Right now my job is just to get healthy and learn as much of the playbook as I possibly can and that’s been my focus.
“But down the line, that’s the ultimate goal.”
It’s just that he won’t get the opportunity to prove he’s every bit the pro that first-round picks O.J. Howard, David Njoku and Evan Engram are until sometime this fall, after he fully recovers from his second torn ACL.
“Oh, man. It’s really tough. Being out there, my adrenaline is still pumping,” Butt said. “I’m so locked in. I know what I’m doing out there on every play. I just can’t go out there and do it. And that’s tough being a competitor and being a player that wants to help the team win. But I’m living through these guys out here.”
Coach Vance Joseph said he’s been impressed with Butt’s maturity so far.
“In meetings, he’s in the front row. He’s taking every note,” Joseph said. “When he gets healthy, he can help us.”
Butt said he figures coming out of Jim Harbaugh’s program with its pro-style offenses will help him quickly meet the Broncos’ expectations.
“It’s still very early to tell what my role is going to be in this offense,” Butt said. “So, I’m just committed to working hard right now and getting healthy. That’s my job.”
Butt, who won the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end his senior season, projects as more than just the type of pass-catching tight end that the NCAA’s spread offenses are producing.
“I’m versatile. It’s kind of fading away in this game, you see more spread tight ends,” Butt said. “For me, I believe I can line up anywhere. I can be a Y (receiver) tight end, line up in the backfield, flex me out in the slot or by myself and with that, you have to have a very good understanding of the offense, too, for the coaches to trust you to line up anywhere.”
Butt signed a four-year, $2.7 million contract with the Broncos. He also got an additional $543,000 tax free from a loss of value insurance policy for his draft fall, according to ESPN. And he signed an endorsement deal with, appropriately enough, Charmin toilet paper.
TAKING IT EASY: The Broncos no longer conduct full-fledged practices with their rookies following the draft after tight end Jeff Heuerman blew out a knee at rookie camp in 2015.
“We had nine hours of football meetings and a 40-minute practice today,” Joseph said. “And in my opinion, that’s enough as far as the football part. The entire goal was to bring in the guys and get them comfortable with our system. That was accomplished.”
Unlike a lot of teams, the Broncos also didn’t use their rookie minicamp to invite players for a weekend tryout. All two dozen players in attendance — QB Chad Kelly was absent because of Ole Miss’s graduation Saturday — were either draft picks or undrafted college free agents the Broncos signed right after the draft.
“I think the evaluation is over. We’ve drafted and signed these guys. So, the evaluation process, that’s behind us. It’s more now about getting guys ready to play NFL football,” Joseph said. “It’s time to help these guys become NFL players.”
This rookie minicamp mostly consisted of media training and other on-the-field instruction.
“Yeah, it was kind of like college orientation,” said wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie, a fifth-round pick out of Georgia.
“No, it’s more serious, to be honest with you,” said defensive end DeMarcus Walker, a second-rounder from Florida State. “It’s a job, and I’m just very happy to be a Denver Bronco.”
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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