KJ Hamler has been here before.
Well, he's never had Russell Wilson as his quarterback, but he has been forced to recover, rehab and return from an ACL tear in the past. This time, a hip injury was added to the mix, but he's "well ahead of schedule" so far and feeling good.
"I'm not starting from scratch; I'm starting from experience," Hamler said Wednesday, via the team's official site. "When people saw me running routes at 19, 20 miles an hour seven months out and I'm running 25-yard outs and stuff like that, it's just -- it's a mentality. Twenty percent is mental. After you get past that hump, it's fine. So I really wasn't scared to go out there and do any routes or cut any type of way. I just try to do it how I used to, and it just felt normal."
What won't be normal to Hamler for at least a little bit is running routes for Wilson, the best quarterback he's ever played with at any level. No worries for Hamler, as that familiarity will come in due time -- and it might speed up if Hamler can model himself after a highly productive former teammate of Wilson's in Seattle: Tyler Lockett
"Just being in his ear, always asking him questions," Hamler said of the advice he's received from the Seahawks star. "Just basically being a sponge and absorbing stuff, because Russ wants stuff very specific. 'I want it at this spot at this time, this area.' So just picking his brain.
"I kind of see myself playing that Tyler Lockett role this year, so just trying to be a sponge and just listen to him."
Hamler's own teammates, both past and present, have been there to give him additional guidance on his road back from the ACL and hip injury. Broncos standout Courtland Sutton and new Texans receiver DaeSean Hamilton (a former teammate of Hamler's at Penn State and in Denver) have each completed their own returns from ACL surgery within the last two years and were able to help Hamler, with Sutton constantly in Hamler's ear about what he needed to do to improve his recovery process.
The combination of advanced medicine, an abundance of available resources and the experience of having undergone a return from an ACL tear has Hamler confident he's ready to make a significant impact in 2022.
"My speed ain't going nowhere," Hamler said. "I should be faster."
He'll have plenty of work ahead of him, but he can rest easy knowing Denver has answered its long-running question under center. Now it's time to take advantage of their new world.
"Anything I can do to produce, to give this team a winning chance, I'll do it," Hamler said. "It don't matter."