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Ex-Bronco Shaq Barrett Returns To Denver With Buccaneers

Denver Broncos quarterback Jeff Driskel (9) throws a pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Denver Broncos quarterback Jeff Driskel (9) throws a pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

After watching Von Miller and Bradley Chubb team up for 24 sacks in Denver in 2018, Shaq Barrett didnt want to be a backup anymore and took his talents to Tampa.

DENVER: After watching Von Miller and Bradley Chubb team up for 24 sacks in Denver in 2018, Shaq Barrett didnt want to be a backup anymore and took his talents to Tampa.

When he returns with the Buccaneers (1-1) Sunday to face the Broncos (0-2) hell saunter into Empower Field as the NFLs defending sacks champion.

And although hes still searching for his first sack of 2020, hell bring with him zero regrets.

I just want to show them that they did have a chance to have me and they let me go, Barrett said. But I am happy with my situation down here. I love it.

It was a good move for Barrett before hed ever played a down for the Bucs.

His one-year, $5 million deal last season represented some $53,000 more than hed earned in Denver, where he spent his rookie year on the practice squad after going undrafted out of Colorado State before a four-year run backing up the likes of Miller, Chubb, DeMarcus Ware and Shane Ray.

He parlayed that into the $15.88 million franchise tag hes playing on this season after a monster year in which he collected an NFL-best 19 sacks, forced six fumbles and earned his first Pro Bowl nod.

I didnt even want to stay in Denver no more after my last two years there. I felt there was zero percent chance Id start, Barrett said. They werent even giving me the opportunity to compete to start. I did as much as I could there. I learned as much as I could there. There was no more on-the-rise there.

If anyone’s lamenting Barretts departure it’s the Broncos.

Chubb suffered a season-ending knee injury last September and when he returned to the lineup this month, Miller suffered a season-ending ankle injury.

Had he stayed, Barrett would be in his second season as a starter in Denver.

No, I most definitely dont think about that, Barrett said. Thats the only reason why they had me was like if one of them did get hurt, they knew they had a secure, comfortable backup who could come in, make some plays and be a somewhat starting-caliber player.

But thats not the role that I wanted” anymore, Barrett said. “It worked initially, but as I got older, I did want to see if I could be a full-time starter in the league and that just wasnt an option there or a role I could possibly have.

Still, hes thankful for his time in Denver.

All my time there was a blessing, Barrett said. I wouldnt be the player I am now without it.

Other subplots Sunday when Tom Brady goes for just his fifth win in a dozen trips to Denver and the Buccaneers seek their first win over the Broncos since 1999:

STILL THE BEST

Brady has thrown interceptions in his past four starts, three of them pick-6s. But Broncos coach Vic Fangio sees no signs the 43-year-old QB is showing his age.

He doesnt look any different to me, Fangio said. Hes still got really good arm strength and strong football intelligence in recognizing things. I dont see a major difference other than the new uniform that hes wearing.

Broncos cornerback Bryce Callahan shared similar sentiments about TB12.

Tom Brady being one of the G.O.A.T.s, you never want to sleep on a guy like that even if he isnt looking the same as he has in the past, Callahan said. Were still going to approach the game like hes The Man. We dont want to get caught slipping.

BRONCOS BACKUP

With Drew Lock (shoulder) sidelined for the second straight season, Jeff Driskel gets his first start for Denver and is seeking his second career win, which is 248 fewer than Brady.

As long as I can remember, Ive watched him play, said Driskel, who is 16 years younger than Brady. Hes been playing for 20 years or whatever its been. Hes been a constant in this league. Hes been one of the best, if not the best for a majority of those years.

WHERES GRONK?

Theres no denying Rob Gronkowski is off to a slow start in Tampa Bay with just two catches for 11 yards. He was held without a catch last week for just the fifth time in his 117-game career.

He doesnt look any less daunting, Fangio insisted. In fact, he looks like hes in pretty good shape. Hes running better than he was late in the final season of his career with New England. I think hes healthy and ready to go. … He hasnt gotten his yet, but Im sure by the end of the season, hes going to have some good numbers.

Maybe even by games end Sunday. In six career games against the Broncos, Gronkowski has 34 receptions for 445 yards and three TDs.

FANTASTIC FOURNETTE

Leonard Fournette, who signed with the Bucs this month, rumbled for 225 yards on 29 carries in the Jaguars 26-24 win at Denver a year ago.

After that game, Fangio shuffled his defense, moving Mike Purcell to nose tackle and switching Shelby Harris to end while inserting linebacker Alexander Johnson into the lineup.

Hopefully, well have a better day against him than we did last year, Fangio said.

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AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall contributed.

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Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL


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