A year ago, Mitch Berger was hitting sky-high punts for the Super Bowl-champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
Sixteen years ago, Berger was doing the same in Boulder for the Colorado Buffaloes.
Now, Berger is back where it all began and ready to be a bona fide contributor for the Broncos this season.
“This is where I kind of started playing big-time football,” Berger said. “It is a great place to be back to.”
When Berger entered the league in 1994 with the Philadelphia Eagles, the scene was somewhat different. The Rams and Raiders were still in Los Angeles. The Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars were just named expansion teams. The NFC and AFC Central were two years away from being split into South and North divisions.
Additionally, the NFL adopted a series of rule changes designed to increase offensive production, including the creation of the two-point conversion.
While few players reach the 16-season plateau in the pros, Berger believes he’s far from finished.
“I’m hoping that I still have a couple more … It has been a great career,” Berger said. “Last year was a great year for me — to win a Super Bowl. I hoped that I could still keep playing and I’m glad to get this chance.”
Much of his longevity comes from a mixed bag of tricks. Berger said that’s an essential part of his game — knowing when to keep the ball out of the end zone versus put the ball out of bounds.
That flexibility has helped Berger rank fifth in the league since 1999 in both gross (43.4) and net (36.6) punt average (min. 500 kicks).
“He is a veteran guy who has been asked to punt the ball different ways, different styles,” Head Coach Josh McDaniels said. “We don’t just tell our punter to kick it as far as you can on every play. We ask a lot of them.”
With heavy snows hitting the Denver area this afternoon, the Broncos moved indoors to practice at their nearby bubble.
Here are some photos from the session.
– Chris Gentilviso, DenverBroncos.com