CU's Phillip Lindsay is doing it again — this time in Denver Broncos training camp

Jul 31, 2018 | by Paul Klee, The Gazette

ENGLEWOOD — He's doing it again. He's doing that thing where he hears what's supposed to happen, ignores it completely and writes the ending that he believes the world should read.

Phillip Lindsay is doing Phillip Lindsay things, in other words. Still ticked he didn't get drafted, Lindsay's scootin' and slashin' around the Broncos practice fields and has members of the Super Bowl 50 defense predicting that Lindsay is going to play a bunch. Yes, this season. 

And you know what? We’re doing it again, too. We see a guy who’s listed at 5-foot-8 (ha!), smiles all the time like he’s just happy to be here, wears a baby face like he did at Denver South, and we naturally think only a Colorado homer would say he's going to be an NFL running back. 

Fine, I'll be that guy. I'm telling you that if Phillip Lindsay keeps this up, he's going to be an NFL running back. And a punt returner. And a slot receiver. And maybe all three — this season, for the Broncos.

"You're not seeing things," Buffs legend and 104.3 FM "The Fan" analyst Mike Pritchard reassured me at training camp on Monday.

So you’re seeing it, too, Pritch?

“I’m seeing it, too. And he’s so versatile it could help with roster construction. With a guy who can do different things, you could open up spots for some other guys.”

OK, just the facts: there have been 16 Broncos who played a game at the high school, college and pro level in Colorado. That’s not a lot, so guess what? The odds are stacked against Lindsay yet again, and that forgets to mention the drafted running backs he’s competing with and against — Devontae Booker, Royce Freeman, De’Angelo Henderson and David Williams. Credit Vance Joseph for making it a true open competition with all five guys earning reps with Case Keenum's first-team offense. Aside from a Von Miller here and a Chris Harris Jr. there, no one from a 5-11 team should be safe from open competition. 

Does the backfield look like Pine Creek's when Keenum (who's probably 5-foot-10) and Lindsay (we went over that) are lined up shoulder-to-shoulder? Yeah, it does. But when the ball is snapped there's been little doubt Lindsay belongs.

"Obviously he's a Buff, so I’ve watched Phillip for three years as a starter in a major conference. He was a great player,” Joseph said.

Lindsay wasn't happy with his Monday. Said he had a bad day. It happens. But most of the time he's been the squeeze of "juice" the Broncos sought last offseason, before seductive draft picks Isaiah McKenzie and Carlos Henderson turned into pulp. Could it be the juice they sought was grown locally?

"It's hard to believe he didn't go to the combine," Joseph added. 

That’s par for the course for Lindsay. There’s a good chance he’s going to be the first grandfather to share the story of how he walked to school through the snow — uphill both ways! — and be telling the truth. His path to a 53-man roster in the NFL actually felt like it was uphill both ways: torn ACL in high school, and his rehab was a do-it-yourself project that took place on the floor of his family’s living room; no invitation to the NFL scouting combine, a snub that stunned Lindsay and the Buffs program; no phone call on draft day to say CU’s all-time record-holder in all-purpose yards had been drafted. At some point you just kinda say, well, he’s going to make the team, anyway.

This was that point: "He’s going to be our third-down back," linebacker Brandon Marshall said.

That was after the second practice.

"It’s still early," Joseph reminded, and the coach’s point is well-taken.

It’s way early. It’s it’s-still-July early. Freeman has been the running back to draft in your fantasy league, but it’s still early. The Broncos just wrapped up Day 3 of training camp, and the biggest news was left tackle Garett Bolles being carted off the practice field after "a shot to the chin," Joseph said. Big boy returned for the afternoon walk-through and looked to be A-OK.

So this is more about what Lindsay has done so far. So far he’s caught every punt, and that’s a good place to start around here these days. And you could see on Sunday how bad Lindsay wants that punt return gig when the other guys were trudging off the practice field and Lindsay hollers at special teams coordinator Tom McMahon, “Let me do one more, coach!”

That’s how you make the team. And I think Phillip Lindsay is going to make this Broncos team. This is what he does, and he's doing it again.

(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at paul.klee@gazette.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)

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