ENGLEWOOD, Col. – Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon traded barbs with safety Justin Simmons about a locker room game of Uno apparently gone awry.
He laughed at a reporter’s question about a recent tweet that mistook his cellphone – stashed in his sock – for a protective pad after Gordon missed a couple of days of training camp with a minor foot injury. Football attracts, after all, doesn’t have pockets.
“I should have invested in an Apple Watch,” Gordon said during a Wednesday news conference.
Playing time, though, is no laughing matter. The eighth-year pro, who returned to the Broncos this offseason on a one-year deal worth up to $2.5 million, knew what he was getting into when he signed up to return for another year of playing alongside ascendant second-year back Javonte Williams .
In Gordon’s mind, that doesn’t mean he has to accept any particular fate.
“To be honest, I think they kind of have a plan of what they want heading in (to the season),” Gordon said when asked about his role. “As far as a rotation goes, I really don’t know. I think they want ‘Vonte, probably, to be the guy.
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Williams received most of the top-team snaps during the Broncos’ training camp, though Gordon also works extensively with the No. 1s as well. In 2021, Gordon and Williams finished the season with 203 carries apiece and nearly identical yardage (918 for Gordon, 903 for Williams). Gordon finished with eight touchdowns to Williams’ four while Williams logged 43 receptions to Gordon’s 28. It was Gordon, though, who started 16 games to the then-rookie’s one.
How first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett and offensive coordinator Justin Outten deploy the pair this season remains to be seen.
“I’ve got to go back and look at how they kind of did things in Green Bay with the carries and things like that,” Gordon said of Hackett’s last stop, where the Packers featured the tandem of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. “I’m not sure. My mindset is to just go out here and compete and go as hard as I can. … I want to put my best foot forward so when I do go out there, they be like, ‘OK, we need to get him out here more.’
“I know I’ve got the game. I know I can play. I know I’ve still got the juice, man. We’ll see.”
Hackett at the beginning of camp was asked why the franchise opted to bring Gordon back, and he began his answer by exclaiming, “He’s Melvin Gordon, man!”
“He’s just a downhill, skilled player,” Hackett continued. “He can catch from the backfield, pass protect, all those things. Just getting to know him now, I’m even more happy that he’s here. Everything that I had witnessed was just off tape, watching him run for all those yards, run people over, utilize speed. So now getting to know him, it’s even better. He’s got a little swag to him and he’s been doing this for a while, so he’s always great to have a veteran leader around.”
With training camp in the rearview mirror and the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks a little less than four weeks away, Gordon is adamant the pecking order does matter to him.
“You kind of know what it is at times, unfortunately, but I’m still a competitor at the end of the day,” he said. “You take that away and the love’s gone. In my head every day, I tell myself they’re not just giving anyone a position. You have to earn it and that’s what I tell myself every day. Nothing’s given. That kind of keeps me going, keeps me focused, keeps me finishing, keeps me grinding.”
At the same time, though, the veteran back, who has played in just two playoff games in his career – both with the Chargers in 2019 – has a feel for the bigger picture as well. When he re-signed in Denver, he said it was in part because of his comfort level here and his lack of interest in starting entirely over in a new city. He’s got a long friendship with quarterback Russell Wilson, too, and said Wednesday he has designs on more than just forcing his way onto the field.
“I’ve got to do what it takes,” he said. “(Hackett) told me coming in, at the end of the day, it’s about the Super Bowl. It’s about winning the Super Bowl, and we’re going to do whatever is best for the team. So, I’m bought into that 100% because I want the ring more than anything.
“I do feel like I can help this team, so when I get in I’ve got to show that.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Parker Gabriel on Twitter @ParkerJGabriel.