By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Billy Turner’s one-year deal with the Denver Broncos represents not only a homecoming but a reunion.
Turner, who played in Denver from 2016-18, and Broncos new head coach Nathaniel Hackett developed a close friendship during their time together in Green Bay, where Turner blossomed as a versatile and dependable offensive lineman.
“It’s special,” Turner said Tuesday of returning to the Broncos. “On top of that, being able to play for one of the better people that I’ve met in this industry and someone who I consider one of my great friends in this league … you can’t pass up on a situation like that.”
Hackett gushed over Turner at the NFL owners meetings in Florida this week, and not just about Turner’s versatility.
“Billy is the best, man. I mean, he’s such a great dude,” Hackett said. He called Turner’s ability to seamlessly move from one position of need to another “something that would always blow me away.”
“I mean, it’s really unbelievable. Just as a man as he is off the field is just awesome. I love him. I’m so excited to have him on our team.”
Asked what was the genesis of their friendship in Green Bay, where Hackett was the Packers’ offensive coordinator from 2019-21, Turner said, “I just think me and Hackett are cut from a similar cloth. We were able to have conversations that aren’t specifically about football. We can talk about everyday life situations. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in the world. We can talk about whatever.
“It was funny talking to him a week or two ago. We can also just sit there and sit in silence and enjoy that,” Turner added.
“Every day before practice when we were together the last three years in Green Bay, I would get ready for practice and tape my hands up and whatnot. He would just come over and he would sit next to me. Sometimes we would talk about things, sometimes we wouldn’t.
“It was just it was one of those opportunities that we always had daily to sit there, to communicate, and to learn about one another. He’s just one of those bright positive souls that I’ve fortunately had the great pleasure of meeting in this industry.”
The Miami Dolphins drafted Turner in the third round out of North Dakota State in 2014 and he joined the Broncos midway through the 2016 season.
He didn’t play in all 16 games until his third season in Denver and fifth season of his NFL career. He joined the Packers in 2019 and became a mainstay in Green Bay, starting 43 games in the regular season and two in the playoffs.
“I’ve grown in a lot of different ways. I think I’m a better football player now,” Turner said.
One reason is he embraced the opportunity to play multiple positions.
“I think that has helped me as a player — not only understanding the game more, but also being able to focus in and hone in on some of my personal techniques a little bit more,” he said.
“As a young player, you don’t really want to bounce around from position to position. You hear coaches and older people tell you that it’s going to enhance your value as a player and also make you a better player. As everyone knows, when you’re young and they tell you, ‘Look it’s going to go by in the blink of an eye,’ you never believe them until you’re in that situation.
“It’s no different with me playing different positions. They tell you it’s going to get better and it’s going to make you a better football player, but you never really understand that and trust that until you’re going into Year 9 like I am right now.”
Turner, who signed for $5 million in 2022, projects as the Broncos right tackle although he provides depth at both tackle spots and both guard positions.
“I personally don’t have any expectations,” Turner said. “I learned a long time ago not to go into any year or any game with any type of expectation. You can talk to Coach Hackett about that. It’s funny because when I was in Green Bay, you might get to a Wednesday or Thursday and then you find out that you have to play a different position. That’s just the norm for me.
“I honestly have no expectations for any position for me to play. I can play all of those positions. I’m comfortable at all those positions.”
Turner said it wasn’t just the chance to reunite with Hackett that drew him to Denver. Playing with newly acquired QB Russell Wilson was a big draw, too.
“It definitely played a factor,” Turner said. “When you’re looking at teams and you look at situations and you look at quarterbacks out there, Russell is one of those dudes that’s going to win you a handful of games by himself.”