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Emmanuel Sanders: Courtland Sutton could haul in 10-plus TDs

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NFL Media's Oklahoma Drill series presents exclusive, quick-hitting one-on-one interviews with players and coaches from around the league. No nonsense -- just football experiences directly from the source.

Emmanuel Sanders

Wide receiver, Denver Broncos

Born: March 17, 1987

Experience: Ninth NFL season

Interview by Nick Shook | Sept. 2, 2018

I got hurt last year so this is one of those situations where I sat back and said, "I've got to make a certain sacrifice to lock myself in and be healthy a full year."

It sucks, man. It sucks. What really sucks about injuries is like, the past four years have been so good. Two Pro Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl, and then I get hurt on an ankle injury that wasn't my fault. It wasn't like a hamstring strain. It was a situation where a guy came and literally dove in front of my ankle and rolled my ankle.

When I was out there, I still was playing with an ankle that was at 60, 70 percent.

It was so much pain. I missed like six games and still had like 600 yards and everybody's saying, "Oh yeah, he's hurt because he's 31," kind of like, I wouldn't say give up on you but they think that you're done because of an injury and because of a number. They don't even know how to equate the number to the injury, though. They just say, "Oh, Emmanuel Sanders. What did he do last year?" ... But regardless, though, it's one of those situations: minor setback for a major comeback.

I'm ready to come back this year and ball out. So far, so good. I've had the best offseason I've had. I didn't go out much, I didn't drink too much alcohol. I stayed locked and loaded and trying different procedures and taking care of my body and understanding and trying to get ready for the long haul.

[The ankle injury] did [make me pay attention to taking care of my body]. It did. I had a daughter, too. Having two kids, they kind of slow you down a little bit. I think all in all, it all kind of slowed me down. I feel like life in general, it beats you up and makes you grow up.

What goes up must come down. I understand that. So, two Pro Bowls. Super Bowl. Down year. Now I'm getting ready to ride this wave back up, and I'm going to ride it back up totally different than the way I did last time.

I've taken it personally, what happened in Pittsburgh. But they didn't have the money, so to speak. I didn't take offense to it, but I do remember then saying, "I want to dog these guys out," and I did. I had 180-some yards and a touchdown and even though we lost, I remember going back after the game crying because I guess I was just pissed off and wanted to beat them that bad for how I felt. I took it as disrespect.

I was like, "All right, man. You gonna let me walk? OK then, I'm gonna go and show you." In '14, I went to the Pro Bowl. In '15, I went to the Super Bowl and in '16, I went to the Pro Bowl again on them. So, it all worked out in my favor.

Looking back at Pittsburgh, it was Antonio [Brown's] destiny to be over there by himself and with no help. Because you want to talk about a guy, man, they feed him the ball. Being the No. 2 receiver over there is not fun at times.

Last year was tough. Three different quarterbacks, ankle injury, it was definitely tough.

Totally different locker room now. I understand that what I say speaks volumes. I'm very conscientious of words that I speak, trying to keep the locker room positive, trying to keep the locker room upbeat. [We have a] new quarterback, so I'm just optimistic about this year and hopefully, we can bounce back and turn it around.

So much easier [with Case Keenum], man, so much easier. I mean, he's a veteran quarterback, too, [so] he's been through the ranks. He understands what it takes to play the position. He's hungry, he's out to prove how I felt when I left Pittsburgh.

The Vikings could've signed him back, but they let him go and brought in another guy and gave him the money after [Keenum] helped them get to the NFC championship. So that's kind of like a slap in the face. I feel like he's got something to prove. I've got something to prove and the whole organization has something to prove. So everybody's hungry.

[Courtland Sutton] is a dog. He's a dog. He's an animal. Chris Harris Jr. calls him "Mini Megatron." He's big, man. He's big. He can go up and get the ball, he has good routes, he's smart. I feel like if we do what we're supposed to, there's no reason why he shouldn't have 10-plus touchdowns.

It's like one of those situations where I'm uncomfortable even talking about it up here because I know how good [our offense] can be, and I don't want to overhype it. I just want to fly under the radar and keep balling. I don't want that headline.

I thought Pittsburgh was going to be with the team that I played the longest with because I was there for four years as well. But to be with the Broncos for five years speaks volumes, too.

It wasn't that long ago, but some days I forget I even played for the Steelers.

[Paxton Lynch getting cut is] a tough situation to speak about. Obviously, he just didn't do the job. I was rooting for the guy. He's got all the intangibles in the world. Six-foot-6, 6-foot-7, big arm, can scramble, can run. I just think that for Paxton, he's just got to keep honing in on his mental skills, his study skills, how to go about playing the quarterback position, knowing your reads and checkdowns and also playing with a sense of confidence that runs through the offense, spreads through like a wildfire throughout the offense.

It's one of those situations where [Lynch] just might need a fresh start. The beautiful thing about moving to a new city, a new town or going to a new school is that you can be whoever you want. It'll be good for him to go to a new team and try to start fresh and try to start and go to Pro Bowls and stuff like that. I wish him the best.

From a maturity level standpoint, when I got with Peyton [Manning], I kind of grew up a lot faster. In terms of studying, Peyton wasn't having it. Peyton's expectations of me were so high, I had to go and study. I had to do the right thing. Just his approach to how he [got on] me and trying to get me in the right mindset wasn't dissing me or bashing me. It was more like, "Hey, this is your job and I need you to do your job." It kind of helped me grow up and become the player I am today.

I think I was an arrogant, cocky guy [when I arrived in Denver]. I knew I was good, just figured I could just show up on Sundays and keep doing it that way, but I was hungry as hell, too. I wanted to be great. I wanted to prove myself. I knew going and playing with Peyton, I was going to be on the grand stage every Sunday and I had to go out and produce. I think that right there, going through those games, 100-yard games and three-touchdown games, it brought me back to where I was at SMU and having so much success and it gave me a sense of confidence as well.

Shoot, [I realized I'd become an older player] when they started calling me old man and when guys started walking around saying they're 21, 22, and I'm 31.

Also, when I watched the TV copy and they'd say, "The veteran. The veteran Emmanuel Sanders, he's been doing it a long time." I'm like, "Oh, s---. I'm one of those guys now?" They don't even say that about Antonio Brown. Like, they don't say Antonio Brown is the veteran or he's older, but for some reason they tag me in that, even though me and AB came in the same year.

They just call me "the vet." I guess I'm savvy.

I'm trying to get into broadcasting. I don't know which way I want to go, though. I don't know if I want to go towards the movie role or a sports analyst, I don't know yet. I still got hopefully another four, five years left to play ball. It's just something I'm pursuing to see [if it will] work out.

Once I get done playing football, I don't want to just sit around the house. I still want to be active. I don't want to go into coaching. I don't want to be a coach; that's way too much work for me. I don't have the patience for it.

I had my first television show out in Pittsburgh. It was called "Catch 88: The Emmanuel Sanders Show." That was my last year in Pittsburgh and it was because I was No. 88. Then I came [to Denver] and I got a show called "Broncos Huddle," but I'm not doing it anymore because I'm kind of focused on football now.

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