Broncos WR KJ Hamler returns to practice, shares mental health struggles: 'The devil was on my back'

Victoria Hernandez
USA TODAY Sports+

Denver Broncos wide receiver KJ Hamler returned to practice Monday after the team said he passed his physical and was cleared to play. The third-year player tore his ACL and injured his hip in Week 3 last year, causing him to miss the rest of the season. He was on the Physically Unable to Perform list to start training camp.

Hamler received many congratulations from teammates as he stepped onto the practice field, according to USA TODAY's Parker Gabriel. He is expected to be ready to play Week 1.

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Speaking to the media after practice, Hamler shared how being injured at the same time his grandmother passed was difficult for him mentally.

"It's been a tough journey, to be honest," he said. "It was just so much stuff I was dealing with being piled up on top of each other, on top of each other at one point. Just dealing with the ACL and a little bit of more things, family situations. My love of my life passed, my grandmother, so that was the toughest thing. The devil was on my back for a while.

"There was one point I didn't want to be on Earth no more."

He also explained how he was able to get out of that dark place, saying he is in a better mindset now.

"God gave me the strength just to get out that hole," the former Penn State wideout said. "He knew I was strong enough to get through. I didn't feel like I was at the time. Just getting out that hole was just, it was very hard, very tough, just having all these things going on, piling on top of each other, it was a hard process. But just to see where I'm at from where I started and where I'm at now, big change. I'm proud of myself and I know my grandmother (is) proud."

Hamler started four games during his rookie season in 2020 and had 30 receptions, 381 yards and three touchdowns in 13 appearances. He joins fellow receivers Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and Jerry Jeudy — led by quarterback Russell Wilson — attempting to take the Broncos to the playoffs for the first time since winning Super Bowl 50.

If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time day or night. Crisis Text Line also provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they dial 741741.