Left to toil on the bench, Jamaal Charles was an afterthought in his first — and likely only — year with the Denver Broncos.
But the former All-Pro (albeit 31-year-old) running back isn’t going out on that note.
“I want to keep playing,’’ Charles said as he left Broncos headquarters on New Year’s Day, via Mike Klis of 9News. “I’m just going to work out this offseason and hope I get a call.’’
The Broncos signed Charles off the scrap heap as the finishing touch on their three-man backfield, the complement to C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker. But the committee approach never went as planned. Not even close. He recorded just 69 carries for 269 yards and a touchdown across 14 appearances, chipping in 129 receiving yards.
Things got so dire that he was made a healthy scratch for the final two regular-season games, sat down in favor of rookie De’Angelo Henderson. This decision cost Charles hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses and incentives, prompting the proud veteran to call for his release.
His request fell on deaf ears.
“I thought we were all going to get a chance to share the ball,” he told The Denver Post last month. “I never got a chance to be in the first 15, and it sucks. How the other running backs, like I look around and see the Patriots share the running backs and New Orleans. You know what I’m saying? I just never got an opportunity.”
Soon, though, Charles will get an opportunity to rebuild his stock. He’s scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency in March, and believes there’s plenty of gas left in the tank. If used properly, he can be a key cog on a contending team’s offense, able to run, catch, pass-protect and, perhaps most importantly, roll with the punches.
“My numbers spoke for itself on the stat sheet,’’ Charles said. “I averaged over 4 yards a carry, caught the ball out of the backfield. You can see my explosion, I can still block. All-around player. I just have to get an opportunity. That’s it.’’
Jamaal Charles does not want to watch Sunday’s game from the sidelines again, especially in front of his former team — the Kansas City Chiefs.
The two-time All-Pro running back was inactive when Denver lost to the Redskins in Week 16 as the team wanted to give rookie De’Angelo Henderson some reps. If the Broncos plan to do the same this weekend, the veteran wants the team to release him now with the hopes of landing a spot with a playoff contender.
“I ain’t playing. Might as well. No reason for me to just sit around and look at people play,” Charles told The Denver Post on Tuesday. “At the end of the day, I just got to see what’s the future for me. That’s the next step. If it’s somewhere else or if somebody wants to pick me up. That’s the future.”
After nine seasons in Kansas City, the 30-year-old running back signed a one-year deal with the Broncos in May to share the backfield with C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker and Henderson. This season Charles only has 69 carries for 296 yards and one touchdown.
“I thought we were all going to get a chance to share the ball. I never got a chance to be in the first 15, and it sucks,” Charles said. “How the other running backs — like I look around and see the Patriots share the running backs and New Orleans. You know what I’m saying? I just never got an opportunity.”
Charles tore his right ACL in 2015 and had a slow season in 2016 which eventually led to his release. He has 7,556 yards and 44 touchdowns in his career in addition to 308 catches for 2,586 yards and 20 scores. Now, he just wants the opportunity to show that he still has it.
“I want to play. I feel like I never got a chance to show people that I can carry the load, so I still want to (show) that I can carry a team,” he said. “I want an opportunity. That’s all I want.”