Just 257 days after shredding his Achilles’ tendon, 32-year-old Emmanuel Sanders officially put a bow atop a medically-defying turnaround.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Sanders is expected to start at receiver for the Denver Broncos in Monday night’s preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers. What’s more, Schefter added, he’ll be on the field for the first offensive snap, likely flanked out wide opposite Courtland Sutton.
“Glory to God.. I made it thru my storm and test now tonight I take the field with my teammates again,” Sanders tweeted Monday afternoon. “I’m back stronger and better. Thank you @uchealth for doing such an amazing job on my surgeries. You guys are the best in the world in my opinion. #Letsgo”
Thus completes Sanders’ recovery from the Achilles’ injury, which was sustained during practice on Dec. 5, 2018 and initially put his star-studded NFL career in doubt.
He failed to cave, however, documenting 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. Sanders was participating in individual drills after seven months and inserted into 7-on-7s in the eighth.
Last Monday, Sanders was a full go, taking part in both the individual and team portions of practice. He ran with the first-string for 11-on-11 drills, flaunting his still-intact ability by snagging a deep ball from quarterback Joe Flacco.
“I’m past [the injury]. I’m past it,” he said. “Right now, it’s just creating longevity in terms of running on it. And getting it used to 30 and 40 plays. So, that’s what we are working on right now. Obviously, it gets a little sore but it’s not to the point where it is unbearable. I’ve dealt with a lot of pain in this league and its very minute. So, I’m very happy at the progress that we’ve made and the progress we’re going to make because we still have three weeks until our first game.”
Projected Playing Time
Broncos head coach Vic Fangio has kept quiet his plan for the team’s third preseason contest. Offensive and defensive starters are expected to play roughly a quarter — maybe more, maybe less, depending on game flow.
Sanders told reporters last Tuesday he doesn’t think he’ll be on a special snap count in his first live-bullet action. The goal is to get his feet wet, acclimate him into the offense, and begin forging on-field chemistry with Flacco.
“We’re going to play it by ear,” he told 9News’ Mike Klis. “I could say two drives, three drives, but if we go down and have a 12-play drive and score, who knows. But if we have a three-and-out, I’m playing. It’s going to be a feel.’’
Sanders Impressing Flacco
Singled out as a player that caught the ever-roaming eye of Fangio, Sanders also has a fan in his new starting signal-caller, a Super Bowl MVP who discussed the intangible qualities the two-time Pro Bowl pass-catcher brings to the locker room.
“Emmanuel is a—you know, listen, I haven’t been here long with Emmanuel, but you can see really quickly and very easily that he’s a great leader,” Flacco said following last Friday’s practice. “Especially to those guys in that huddle. I think those guys play a highly emotional position and I think he does a good job managing those things.”
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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter @KelbermanNFL