BRONCOS

Now in Super Bowl with 49ers, Randy Gregory reflects on Broncos tenure

Feb 6, 2024, 2:37 AM | Updated: 1:13 pm

LAS VEGAS — Randy Gregory traversed a path like no one else in the NFL in this past season.

He opened the season as a starting edge rusher for the Broncos. Having returned to health after an injury-plagued 2022 season that ended with a penalty-strangled game against the Los Angeles Rams — which saw him at the center of a post-game fracas during handshakes — he had the chance to show why the Broncos invested $28 million of guaranteed money in him during the 2022 offseason.

But by Week 4, he was out of the starting lineup. Before the Week 5 game against the New York Jets, he was gone, traded to the San Francisco 49ers. The Broncos received relative pennies on the dollar for the deal, and only a smidgen of salary-cap relief in the process.

Gregory hasn’t started a game for the 49ers. After averaging 34.3 defensive snaps a game for Denver, he’s averaged 21.9 snaps over 14 games played with his new team, including postseason.

But the point is that Gregory is in the postseason. And now, the Super Bowl.

That makes how things devolved down the stretch in Denver easier to handle.

“A lot of things happened in that case,” Randy Gregory reflected at the NFL’s Super Bowl Opening Night event Monday at Allegiant Stadium.

“At the end of the day … it put me in the right position right now to play in the Super Bowl. A lot of that stuff, it will unfold how it wants to unfold. Got a lot of guys in that locker room and on that staff that I really do care about.

“My time in Denver, I really enjoyed it. I still have my family there and stuff like that. So, nothing bad I can honestly say about that.”

FOR RANDY GREGORY, “BUSINESS IS BUSINESS”

And in his mind, the trade “needed” to happen.

“But business is business, and the league is what it is,” Gregory said. “It was something that needed to be done — probably on both sides.”

Nevertheless, as he reflected on what transpired around his departure, he praised the Broncos. In his mind, the team did right by him.

“Definitely,” Gregory said. “I can honestly say that they did what they could to put me in a position to further help my career.”

One person in particular made that possible.

“Specifically, George Paton,” Randy Gregory said, naming the Broncos general manager who brought him aboard. “I think me and him got a real good relationship. Another guy I have a lot of respect for him in that building.

“I wish I could still be out there with him, but I’m happy to be here now.”

THE DIFFERENCE GREGORY NOTICES IN SAN FRANCISCO …

… is in the preparation for games. In Gregory’s mind, this is what separates the top-seeded 49ers from other teams for which he’s played.

“Well, I will say the one thing that I’ve noticed from the jump — and I’d like to think that it’s probably top-tier amongst all NFL teams — is just the preparation,” Gregory said.

“You can always talk about their daily operation. It was something I kind of had to kind of get used to, the amount of film work we do, the amount of hours we spend in those rooms compared to some of the other places I’ve been.”

It’s also time well-spent.

“And not only that, but just the finer details of it,” Gregory said. “Going out there in the walk-through, and the walk-through actually means something as far as the preparation and being able to apply that to the game.

“Their level of mental preparation is just something I’ve never seen. And like I said, when you’ve got the kind of staff we have and the players that they’ve built it on, it makes it real easy for them to kind of govern themselves.”

When Gregory walked into Denver, he joined a team that logged five-straight losing seasons. The Broncos were trying to build a strong football culture at the time of his signing in 2022; their results since then are mixed, to be kind.

But when he arrived at 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., he found a mature team with a firmly-established culture. That has helped make all the difference for Gregory in a season that took him to a spot that seemed unfathomable four months ago on a sunny Sunday in Chicago when he lost his grip on a starting assignment.

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