BRONCOS

Jonas Griffith says his knee is back to ‘100 percent’

Jun 25, 2024, 4:39 PM | Updated: 4:49 pm

The last time Jonas Griffith took a regular-season snap for the Denver Broncos, Nathaniel Hackett was still calling plays for Russell Wilson.

Enough drama to fill a library’s worth of novels has happened for the Broncos since Griffith injured his foot during practice days after a November 2022 loss to the Tennessee Titans. Twenty-five regular-season games and nineteen norths passed in which the Broncos changed coaches twice, changed defensive coordinators, benched Russell Wilson, cut Justin Simmons, cut Wilson and finally drafted a new quarterbacking hope.

And yet Griffith, through that foot injury and a torn ACL suffered last year in training camp, is still here. The Broncos signed him to a contract extension last offseason, and by the time OTAs dawned in May, he looked back to full speed.

“I mean, I definitely have room to grow from conditioning and everything, but I’m 100 percent,” Griffith told Zach Bye and Phillip Lindsay during the June 25 edition of The Drive on 104.3 The Fan. “I participated fully in OTAs and minicamp, and honestly, my knee feels better than it did before.”

Griffith practiced with no restrictions, working his way into a derby for playing time at one of the two inside-linebacker spots. With incumbent and leading tackler Alex Singleton written in Sharpie as a starter at the other spot — a status confirmed by the green dot on his helmet, making him the play-calling relay for the entire defense — Griffith is in a scrum for playing time that includes himself, free-agent pickup Cody Barton, special-teams standout Justin Strnad and undrafted rookie Levelle Bailey.

The winner will replace Josey Jewell, a free-agent departure for Carolina. Griffith appeared to hold his own during the practices open to media viewing in May and June.

“Just getting a new knee, getting a new ACL, it was a lot better, so, I mean, and we rehabbed it all year. It’s great, man.

“And I have no pain. And I’m itching.”

THE MENTAL PART OF THE RETURN OF JONAS GRIFFITH

That confidence and sturdiness in the wake allows Jonas Griffith to focus on the mental side. There are two components to this.

First, there’s the familiarity with the scheme. It helped that the Broncos took Griffith on all of their road trips last year while he recovered from the ACL injury, allowing him to stay in the midst of things from week to week. But as he returns to a scheme different than the one in which he played two seasons ago, the communication side must be mastered.

Singleton said that the goal for any of the possible linebacker tandems is to get communication to a level where he’s not verbal.

“It’s a lot more just assuming the guy knows, it’s been a lot more talking of, ‘Hey, you are here. Here are our drops in this situation and I may do this. If this is the blitz, this is what I am reading on it. If you are adding off this or dropping off of me, just know I am going to do this,'” Singleton explained during minicamp.

“It’s just being more verbal about it early on. Just saying that early on or if they are going to do something or covering somebody, saying, ‘Hey, are you going to do it this way or that way? Do you feel more comfortable in this situation?’ Just those little things. Being more communicative out there.”

The second aspect of the mental work is on the confidence in the knee, a significant hurdle for any player returning from a torn ACL. To that end, Griffith feels he’s in good shape — reaching the point where he shed his brace during offseason work.

Griffith said in the on-air interview that he worked past it in the first week of OTAs.

“That was big for me. Just the mental hurdle,” Griffith said. “And then after that, I was fine. Like, I — I took the brace off, and the trainer’s like, ‘No, don’t do that!'”

But Griffith did. So far, so good.

“And so, I haven’t worn it since,” he said.

That’s another huge step in the veteran linebacker’s attempt to make it all the way back from a season and a half spent watching the Broncos change around him.

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