BRONCOS

Lloyd Cushenberry, after missing last nine games: ‘I’ve been 100 percent for a while’

Jan 9, 2023, 12:24 PM

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Lloyd Cushenberry could have returned during the 2022 season.

The third-year center missed the final nine games of the season with a groin injury he suffered during the Broncos’ Week 8 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in London. The Broncos put him on injured reserve thereafter, meaning he would miss a minimum of four games.

But it was well before that when he felt ready to return.

“If I wasn’t put on IR, I think I could have come back when we played the Raiders,” Cushenberry said.

That game took place Nov. 20 — 21 days after the injury.

“That’s how I was feeling,” he added. “But I was still on IR at the time. And I understand why they put me on IR. But I’ve been 100 percent for a while.”

However, the crush of injuries and the limit on activations from injured reserve precluded that. NFL teams can designate eight players for return from IR in a season. In most years, that’s plenty of spots.

But for the injury-ravaged Broncos — who placed 27 players on injured reserve this season — it wasn’t nearly enough.

“Other injuries to other positions didn’t allow me to come back. But, yeah, there were conversations,” Cushenberry said. “I was supposed to come back. But things happened.”

Having players return from IR only to go back on the list — edge rusher Randy Gregory, tight end Greg Dulcich and running back Mike Boone — exacerbated the problem. When Boone went on IR for a second time, that necessitated bringing Chase Edmonds back because the team needed another running back.

It was a vortex that meant Cushenberry sat and watched while Graham Glasgow started the final nine games of the season at center.

“Very tough, but again, you’ve just got to understand what’s going on and be a pro about the situation,” Cushenberry said. “I’m not complaining about anything or pointing the finger at anyone. It’s just an unfortunate situation. But I’m 100-percent now and next year, I’ll be 100 percent.”

It’s also a contract year for Cushenberry. The clock is ticking for the 2020 third-round pick to prove his worthiness of a second contract.

“Too fast, man. It feels like I just got here, through COVID and everything. But it’s gone by very fast.

“Year Four, man — it’s a big year for us all. This offseason is going to be key. This next season is going to be key for the whole organization. I’m just ready to put my head down and go to work and do whatever I can to get some wins.”

And in tandem with Russell Wilson and others, he’ll be part of an offense that could face a schematic overhaul once again as the group attempts to prove its collective worth to a new head coach.

“We really have a good culture, in my opinion. We’ve just got to continue to build on that,” Cushenberry asserted Monday. “I want whoever they bring in to know that we’re gonna buy in. We’re gonna do whatever we can, because we know — this organization, the standard has not been good these past few years.”

But it starts with being healthy. And fortunately for Cushenberry, he goes into the offseason free and clear of injuries — although it took shelving him while healthy to do it.

***

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