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Phillip Lindsay hopes to be ready for bigger 2019 season

Phillip Lindsay was the Broncos' leading rusher despite missing the end of the season with a wrist injury. AP Photo/Josie Lepe

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- After the season that running back Phillip Lindsay had, it's easy to forget just how much he overcame.

Former Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph said: "To come where he came from -- he was like sixth on the depth chart at running back in [training] camp -- you have to have confidence in who you are and what you do to make it. But he also remembers that climb too. That's one guy I don't worry about getting complacent because he believes in himself, but he's also seen there are no substitutes for the work because he's been that guy nobody expected."

Lindsay, who finished his rookie season on injured reserve after post-Christmas wrist surgery, was the biggest revelation of what was a season of struggle overall for the Broncos. He not only became the first player to have participated in the Broncos' Futures middle school football program to go on to play for the team, but he also became the first undrafted offensive rookie to be named to the Pro Bowl.

With 1,037 yards, he led the team in rushing and was second in the league in yards per carry (5.4). And along the way, the 5-foot-8, 190-pounder became the dreams-do-come-true example to those teenagers who swarmed to snatch his jersey off the store shelves and a significant breath of fresh air for a Broncos team that has not now missed the playoffs in three consecutive seasons.

And while at the Pro Bowl this past week -- Lindsay had earned a spot on the AFC's roster and attended as part of the NFL's social media group -- he made it clear that he wants to make his second season better than his rookie year.

Because Lindsay knows what awaits those down the depth chart if they don't take care of their business, since he's been the guy trying to climb up already.

"I'm proving myself again, every year is a new year, if you don't produce you don't play, you're not the starter," Lindsay said. " ... Who's to say they don't go get another [running back]?"

Lindsay often said before, during and since the Broncos' disappointing 6-10 season ended that he has every intention of being more than what he called "just a quick story." So, while his trip to the Pro Bowl was a well-deserved opportunity to be among many of the league's best players, Lindsay also saw it as a fact-finding mission.

"Everybody [at the Pro Bowl] has different stories of how they got here, got to the NFL," Lindsay said. " … But the best thing probably, honestly -- I've heard a lot of things -- but what I've heard from one of my teammates … was Emmanuel Sanders … it's marathon, not a sprint, [the] season's long, preseason's long, OTA, so you've got get better every single day at something. ... You can be hot for five games and cold for three more and everybody thinks you're scum of the NFL."

Lindsay has continued his injury rehab and expects to be able to participate in some parts of the Broncos' offseason program. His original timetable was expected to be a three- to four-month recovery.

The Broncos will open their offseason conditioning program in April and won't do any on-field team or individual work until May and June.

Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway said last week that he believed Lindsay was on track to be healthy for the Broncos' offseason work, especially by OTAs and minicamp. Newly hired offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello has already said he sees the Broncos running backs, and the run game in general, as having an important role in the makeover on offense, even as the team attempts to pump up its passing numbers.

Scangarello called it "creating different ways to attack a defense and with that can come innovative ways to run the ball as well … I think it's the same in the pass game."

"For me the main goal is to be healthy for next year," Lindsay said. "Go to the playoffs and get to a Super Bowl. ... Every year is a battle."