ENGLEWOOD • A few months ago, the Denver Broncos wanted to limit Eddie Royal on special teams. They’re pretty fortunate that plan didn’t work.
Royal was named AFC special teams player of the month for his historic game at San Diego, in which he became the second player in franchise history to return a punt and kickoff for a touchdown in the same game.
Special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer said in late August that he was told during his interview that Royal would be limited as a returner, and that was still the plan leading up to the season.
But other returners were shaky with ball security, so Royal kept getting more time at punt and kickoff returner. And Royal was an enticing option — one of the main reasons he was drafted by Denver in the second round last year is because he is a talented returner.
“I’ve always been comfortable returning kicks, it’s something I’ve been doing since high school,” Royal said. “I’m happy doing it. It’s another way to make a play in a game.”
For Royal, it has been his best way to contribute. Royal didn’t have a catch against San Diego, which has continued a pattern for him this season. He has 18 catches and 148 yards this season, and had 10 receptions and 90 yards in one game. Coach Josh McDaniels reiterated this week that the team wouldn’t force passes to anyone, including Royal.
Although Royal is Denver’s primary returner, McDaniels promised not to wear him out. He has rotated in other players. For example, Alphonso Smith returned a punt against San Diego after Royal’s two touchdowns because Royal needed a break.
“We’re going to try to use the player that can give us the most production,” McDaniels said. “At the same time, you’re trying to be smart.”