Jake Butt’s season last fall was cut short after he tore his ACL in practice, just as he was becoming a solid piece in the Denver Broncos’ offense.
Now, though, the 23-year-old tight end will have to start over.
Butt, now nearly recovered, will join Jeff Heuerman — who stepped in for Butt last season — and rookie Noah Fant at training camp next month, will have to compete for his spot in the starting line up again.
“I’m used to being a guy that the team can rely on, used to being at the top of the depth chart,” Butt said, via the Denver Post. “For me, I’m probably going to be starting off at the bottom and work my way up. It’s a whole different deal for me, but it’s nothing I’m going to shy away from. I’m excited about the competition. I know what I can do as a football player.”
Butt had just 85 yards on eight receptions in three games for the Broncos last season, his second year in the league.
He went down with the torn left ACL in practice on Sept. 27, marking the third ACL tear in his career. Butt tore his right ACL in high school and then tore it again in the Orange Bowl with Michigan in 2016. The Broncos picked him up in the fifth round of the draft the following spring after his injury, but he sat out his entire rookie season.
That injury also damaged his meniscus, Butt revealed on Saturday, which he said was actually the roughest part of his recovery.
“The hardest part for me was (when) I was on crutches for 10 weeks because they did a meniscus repair,” Butt said, via the Denver Post. “There is only so much you can do. Once I got through that, I was cruising right along and then you start walking, the next thing you know, you’re jogging (and) the next thing you know, you’re running. And now here I’m basically doing everything I was before the injury.”
So far, though, Butt has been happy with his progress. He plans to be completely ready when training camp starts in July, though doesn’t expect to be thrown into everything instantly.
“I haven’t had any setbacks, so that’s been great — it’s been a steady climb,” Butt said. “It’s obviously a long process, but I feel really close. At this point, it’s (about) getting back into football shape and to where I feel good every day.”
Butt knows he won’t have an easy path forward this fall. The Broncos have multiple options at tight end.
Heuerman had 281 yards and two touchdowns last season, his third in the league, after stepping in for Butt, and Fant looks to be a promising addition, too. The former Iowa standout recorded 519 yards on 39 receptions and had seven touchdowns last season with the Hawkeyes, and was the Broncos’ first selection in April’s NFL draft.
Still, Butt is ready to earn his spot back.
“I know my job on every single play,” Butt said. “There shouldn’t be (a) slow start in camp. There’s no excuse.”
More from Yahoo Sports: