Losing Courtland Sutton to a torn ACL last season was a devastating blow to the Denver Broncos. Now, almost 12 months later, Sutton is amped and ready to return to the field in a meaningful game.

“Honestly the very first day of practice for me was exciting,” Sutton said when asked about the importance of Sunday’s game to him. “It was a long journey to be able to go practice. The game is a blessing to be able to go participate in the games but shoot, just to be able to go out and lace them up and go out and do the little bit I did in OTAs, then go do what I did in training camp, and then the preseason game.

“All those things are the steppingstones and part of the rehab process,” Sutton continued. “That first day of practice of training camp where they told me that I was going to be able to go out there and play—they were going to watch me, but they were going to let me play— and to be able to do that it’s a blessing and an honor. I’m looking forward to Sunday. Sunday is going to be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it. Not only for myself, but we’ve got a few guys who are coming back. Von [Miller] and ‘Big O’ (TE Albert Okwuegbunam), those dudes worked their butts off to be able to get back in this position as well, and I’m just excited to be able to go out there and go play.”

One benefit that all three of those players will have in their return, is that all three have already gotten their toes wet with some preseason action, before diving into live-game action Sunday.

I learned a lot,” Sutton said in reference to what he took from the preseason experience. “I gained a lot of confidence. Man, the leg felt good and the day after I didn’t know what to expect but going through the little bit of gameplay that I had and then the warmup and everything the leg felt really, really good. I got to come in and just [put] maintenance on the body and got ready for the next day but the body feels good. As I said, I didn’t know what to expect after the game, but it felt good.”

While a lot has stayed the same during Sutton’s absence, one new change is that Sutton has now been named a team captain for the 2021 season. Fortunately, he seems more than up to the task.

“It’s an honor to be able to have your peers name you—somebody they look at as a leader of the team of your room, whatever it may be,” Sutton said Monday. “Any time you get that honor, it’s a blessing and I’m grateful to be able to have the opportunity, and I’m going to continue to maneuver the same way that I have. I’m continuing to push myself to be better, continue to push my teammates around me to be better and you know hopefully we can continue to do that— influence the entire locker room and go win a lot of games.”

One can only hope that this helps result in wins for the Denver Broncos.