By Zack Kelberman
DENVER (247 SPORTS) – Though his Achilles’ might not yet be fully healed, Emmanuel Sanders certainly isn’t hurting for confidence.
“I want to go to the Pro Bowl,” he said Tuesday during the Healthy Swings Charity Home Run Derby at Coors Field, per the Denver Broncos’ official website. “I want to get back in the [NFL] Top 100. I still feel like I’m one of the best receivers in the NFL right now. I work like it, so therefore I’m going to feel like it. I want to get back in the playoffs and I want to make a Super Bowl.
“… I know what I’ve got to do. I’m willing and capable of doing that. I’ve got a month and a half to continuously get better and try to do that.”
Sanders, who ruptured his left Achilles’ tendon on Dec. 5, has documented his rehabilitation on social media in step-by-step fashion — from shedding his walking boot, to running in cleats, to change-of-direction and route-work, as he performed last week.
Six months later, the 32-year-old is this close to being fully cleared for training camp, which begins July 18.
Will he physically be ready? “We’ll see.”
Mentally? No doubt.
“I’ve been working every day and I’ve been showing it on my Instagram just to show the fans I’m working my butt off to get back,” Sanders said. “When I step into that locker room, when I step on that field, I know a lot of people are going to be looking [to see] if I still have it. I’m going to be prepared for that moment. I know me coming off an Achilles injury, the moment I step in this offense, they’re going to expect a lot out of me and I’m going to expect a lot out of myself.”
While momentum is trending toward his complete recovery, renowned former NFL head doctor David Chao posited Monday that Sanders — based on his recent-route running video in which he appears a bit tentative — “clearly is not 100 percent yet,” tempering optimism among the fan base.
“I’ve said all along that even though Emmanuel Sanders’ contract got picked up with the Broncos, it’s not out of the realm of possibility he starts the season on PUP [Physically Unable to Perform list]. … To the naked eye, he looks really good. But if you look closely, he clearly favors his Achilles,” Chao said on his latest Pro Football Doc podcast. “I did not remember which Achilles he had torn, and by looking at videos, it was very clear to me it was his left Achilles. You could see it in several different areas on the video. Go to his third route; he turns around and then ends up having to leap off his left side. In reality, he does a funky little crow-hop. Based on his left foot jump, I’m not sure you could slide a phone book under there. So he clearly is not 100 percent yet. Could you put him out on the field the way he is today? You might be able to. But he clearly is not 100 percent yet, he still favors his left side. This is June. By September, four months, he should get a lot closer. But I’m not ready to celebrate. If I were drafting fantasy players, I’d still be a little careful with Emmanuel Sanders even though he looks good.”
For what it’s worth, team doctors consider Sanders ahead of schedule, and Broncos coach Vic Fangio expressed little worry over his 2019 status.
“You’re always concerned about everything, but I like our receivers,” Fangio said last week. “I like the way they’ve looked, and that’s when we haven’t had Emmanuel, like you said. I think Emmanuel is doing well physically. I’ve got no medical basis for this, but I think he’ll be back earlier than people think.”