ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Just over 10 months since he suffered the knee injury that ended his 2022 season, Denver Broncos running back Javonte Williams is set to take a significant step in his recovery this weekend and play in a game.
Broncos coach Sean Payton confirmed after Tuesday’s training camp practice what Williams has been hoping to hear, that Williams will play at least some in the Broncos’ preseason game Saturday night against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif.
“He’s doing well, we’ll have a plan — I plan on playing him,” Payton said. “We’ll see pitch count-wise towards the end of the week. We’ll be smart, but I do see him playing.”
Williams, a second-round draft pick by the Broncos in 2021 and an All-Rookie team member that season, suffered a torn ACL and LCL in his right knee in the Broncos’ Oct. 2 loss to the Raiders. He said he was initially given a timetable of 12-to-18 months to return to the field.
Williams has worked furiously throughout the offseason to try and be ready for the regular-season opener — Sept. 10 against the Raiders, in Denver — and had made so much progress through spring and early summer that he was not placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list to start camp and has participated fully since.
Williams was held out of the Broncos’ preseason opener this past Friday night in Arizona.
At the start of training camp, Williams said he was more confident than ever he could make the opener.
“It was hard at first … but each week my confidence got bigger and bigger,” Williams said then. “Now that I’m back on the field, I think this is the highest that [my confidence] has ever been.”
During the team’s offseason program, Payton consistently offered an optimistic outlook about Williams’ return.
The Broncos also showed plenty of confidence in Williams’ return throughout the offseason given that they did not use one of their five picks on a deep running back class in the April draft and eschewed a long list of veteran backs available in free agency to sign Samaje Perine, who hasn’t had more than 95 carries in a season since he was a rookie in 2017
Williams’ powerful, bowl-the-defender-over style made him one of the team’s most popular young players on the way to 903 rushing yards in 2021. He had rushed for 204 yards in three and a half games last season before his injury.