The last time Blake Bortles was at the New England Patriots’ home stadium, he was the Jacksonville Jaguars’ starting quarterback in the January 2018 AFC Championship Game.
Bortles threw for 293 yards and helped the Jaguars to a 10-point fourth-quarter lead, but the Patriots rallied for a 24-20 win.
Bortles returns to Foxborough, Mass., on Monday for the Broncos-Patriots game and just about everything has changed for him save for the fact he still plays quarterback.
Signed three-year, $54 million contract extension. … Helped the Jaguars to a 3-1 start in 2018. … Benched with five games remaining, breaking his streak of 76 consecutive regular-season/playoff starts. … Started the final game of ’18, but was released to make room for Nick Foles. … Signed a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Rams to be Jared Goff’s backup. … Was out of the league until the Broncos signed him Sept. 24.
Get all that?
“Definitely, times have changed for sure,” Bortles said in a phone interview with The Denver Post after Thursday’s practice. “But it’s all part of the journey and part of the adversity and everything else. I had a great time and am very grateful for my time in Jacksonville. It was time to move on.”
I covered Bortles during his first four years in Jacksonville (2013-17). Through it all, he always provided insight and was available to talk about any topic.
The topics we covered this past week included the aforementioned exit from the Jaguars, but also his season working with Rams coach Sean McVay, watching the first two weeks of this season from home and his crash course learning the Broncos’ offense.
Bortles appeared in three games (1-of-2 passing) last year for the Rams.
“It was a very similar thing (to Denver) in seeing a different way of doing things and a different language and obviously getting an opportunity to see how (McVay) coaches, how he prepares, how he goes about game planning and his message and the ways to do it,” he said. “I learned a lot and had a great time the year I was there.”
The NFL offseason came and went and Bortles was still at home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., with his family, including his 2-year old daughter.
“It was definitely different, something I hadn’t done before,” he said. “I tried to stay in shape and do everything I could so I would be ready if I got an opportunity to go somewhere.”
Within days of Drew Lock’s right shoulder injury at Pittsburgh in Week 2, Bortles was on a plane to Denver. He has been inactive for the past two games.
“It’s definitely a challenge, but I think it’s a cool opportunity and a chance to be around a different group of guys who call things differently than anything I’ve been around and think about it differently so to get another perspective and learn another way of doing things has been a cool experience and I’ve enjoyed it,” he said.
The Broncos’ coaches think differently?
“As far as the system and the way it’s called,” Bortles said. “There are a lot of teams that run the same concepts and wrinkles here and there and read things. Slightly differently (here) and with their own twist on it.”
Lock, Jeff Driskel and Brett Rypien had about a four-month head start in learning Pat Shurmur’s offense, but as Bortles gets comfortable with the system, he is also on call to pass along some of his wisdom.
“You definitely have to find your place and create those relationships so you can then have the ability to help if necessary or if wanted,” Bortles said. “If somebody has a question or anything to ask about the opponents, being able to answer and help out in any way I can (is important).”
The Broncos are carrying four quarterbacks. When Lock is healthy, the smart move would be cutting Bortles and re-signing him to the practice squad. Bortles should be able to carve out a niche in this league as a backup, capable of playing in a pinch and also providing guidance to a younger starter.
“Of course, I hope I get another opportunity (to start), too, but I understand they’re hard to come by — there are only 32 of these in the world so I have to make sure I’m knowledgeable in the system and ready to go,” he said. “Your resume as a quarterback is what you put on film. I have good stuff and bad stuff and that’s what’s out there. If any opportunity comes my way, I’ll be ready and hope to take advantage of it.”