Broncos’ Justin Simmons excited to work with coach Sean Payton
Broncos safety Justin Simmons looked at home bouncing around the third annual March for Peace at the Boys & Girls Club in Montbello on Saturday morning.
He helped the final stages of setup for the event, shook hands, and caught up with friends and acquaintances as people filed into the event organized by teenagers Naja’Ray West and Nashara Ellerbee.
This is familiar for Simmons, even familial.
“He’s like a brother to us. We love him,” West said of Simmons.
The trio has worked together for an extended period of time on community events and issues. Last year, Simmons played a role in nominating the teenagers for the NFL’s Changemaker Award. They’ve spent countless hours together and they show no sign of slowing down.
“It’s the most rewarding thing about giving back, pouring into Nashara, pouring into ‘Ray’Ray’ and seeing them accomplish their dreams and their goals and to elevate those each and every year,” Simmons said. “Each year they’ve done this event, it’s just grown, subtly, little details that they pick up on and expand on. … They’re on top of everything and I just kind of help and show up and make sure I’m supporting them.”
At his day job, Simmons is in the midst of yet another offseason of change. The eighth-year safety is set to play for his fifth head coach and third in as many seasons. He and the Broncos veterans will learn more about Sean Payton and his coaching staff over the coming weeks once organized team activities get rolling Tuesday, but Simmons said the early impression is a good one.
“Sean’s been great. Honestly, for him, he’s been there and done it and he’s very confident in what he can do and how he’s done it in the past,” Simmons said. “So when you have that type of confidence and you can tell that what you do works, people just follow that lead. There hasn’t been that much that we’ve done yet — we’re getting ready to start practice and all that good stuff — but I’m just excited for the season.
“I’m excited to get the ball rolling. I’m excited to win.”
There is also familiarity for Simmons. His defensive backs coach Christian Parker — one of several Broncos staffers, along with team president Damani Leech, Empower Stadium general manager Jay Roberts and teammates Essang Bassey and Samaje Perine who attended the March for Peace — is back for a third season and Simmons is also reunited with former head coach and now defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
“It means more than I think people give credit for,” Simmons said of Parker’s return. “Especially when you’re moving from defensive scheme to defensive scheme, when you have a coach that can relate things really well and explain things really well it helps the transition. For example, it’s like, ‘Hey, this install right here is the same as this call that we ran last year.’ OK, I can put those two things together. I can marry those two things together and it just helps transitionally in that way. And then, obviously, relationally, we know him and he knows us. He knows how to motivate, knows what needs to be said and doesn’t need to be said and vice versa. …
“Having him back is huge and it’s really good for our room.”
Then there’s Joseph, the second in the quintet of head coaches Simmons has played for here, hired by Payton as the defensive coordinator after a four-year run in the same role for Arizona.
“I love VJ. Love him. Obviously it was unfortunate the way the stint turned out when he was here as the head coach,” Simmons said. “I’ve always loved him, especially as a person. He’s player driven. He’ll do anything for the guys on the team. Right now, it’s been cool for me seeing, I feel like, a different version of him. When you’re the head coach, you’ve got so much more on your plate and you can’t be around as much.
“For the past few weeks to be around him as the defensive coordinator, you can tell how much it means to him and how much he loves the players.
“It’s been cool to reconnect.”
Payton said at his introductory news conference that he wanted his team to work like “anonymous donors” this offseason and for the most part a quiet stretch ensued. Simmons said he appreciated the approach.
“All business,” Simmons said. “We’ll put what we’ve been doing in the dark, that will come out in the light during the season.”
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