Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. just chuckled the other day when someone asked if Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis will play in Super Bowl 50.
Harris came back from a torn ACL. He knows how tough that recovery is. He also knows Davis’s medical history: Coming back from three ACLs.
“If you overcome two ACLs, then I salute you. That takes a lot of mental toughness,” Harris said Friday. “You can see Thomas Davis is one of the toughest players in the league. To overcome three ACLs, and now play with a broken arm? You can sure see where his toughness is.”
Obviously Harris has been studying the habits of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Harris thinks there is a public misconception that Newton’s instinct is to take off and run at the first opportunity, rather than stay within the offensive design.
“People talk about how much he runs, but he tries to make throws from the pocket,” Harris said. “I know what a lot of outsiders say about him, but he wants to stay in the pocket and throw.”
The Broncos defense is coming off holding the New England Patriots to 18 points in the AFC Championship Game. But Harris said that isn’t the same as preparing for the Panthers’ multi-dimensional offense.
“They do a lot of things offensively compared to the teams we’ve played this season,” Harris said. “We’re focused on no mental errors.”
Broncos coach Gary Kubiak, who played on a Super Bowl team as a Denver backup quarterback, gave a long address to the team Saturday morning in their last practice before flying to the Bay Area for a week of Super Bowl prep.
“I think you just talk about accountability. That’s the biggest thing,” Kubiak said.
“You just want to know that everybody is doing everything they possibly can for next Sunday. That’s accountability by players and everybody, but they know that. It’s a week of heavy distractions, but you work to be in those distractions. That’s where you want to be so you just have to handle those things and get ready to play.”
Kubiak’s goal was to install the game plan thoroughly enough in Colorado that practices in Santa Clara will be about retention and not mentally taxing with so much else going on.
“We’ll stay in our routine, but we’ll probably be a lot shorter,” Kubiak said of practices this week at Stanford.
“Hopefully we’re short and very sharp and continue our meeting stuff. Continue that process and how we prepare to play. I want them relaxed. They’ve done the work. They’ve put in the work, so I want them to relax next week and enjoy themselves so they’re ready to go.”
Broncos safety T.J. Ward is working his way back from an ankle injury. He was able to increase his participation in practice Saturday.
“I feel great,” Ward said. “I’m just resting and making sure I’m healthy when it comes Sunday. I’ll definitely be ready to play.”
Broncos cornerback Aqub Talib was asked if the secondary covering Rob Gronkowski in the AFC title game prepares them for Panthers tight end Greg Olsen. Yes and no, Talib replied.
“The Patriots – period. That’s just how you have to focus and game plan for great teams like that,” Talib said. “It’s a totally different style (playing the Panthers), but it just takes that same focus and preparation. Just having to prepare for the Patriots last week is a good tune-up for us.”