The 6-foot-1, 221-pound safety completed his first organized team activities Thursday since being acquired by Denver via trade from Washington, where Cravens sat out last season dealing with personal and health issues following his rookie year.
Concussions nearly derailed Cravens’ NFL career as he reportedly told Washington teammates last September that he contemplated retirement. But Cravens sought the help of medical specialist Micky Collins, and the Broncos gave him a second chance. Now he has the opportunity to compete for snaps in the rebuilt “No Fly Zone.”
Before that happens, though, Cravens has taken special precautions — starting with head protection.
“They got me wearing this big-old helmet,” Cravens told The Denver Post on Thursday.
That “big-old helmet” is the easy descriptor for what’s known specifically as the “VICIS Zero1.” Cravens’ specialty lid combines a flexible polymer shell on the outside with advanced padding technology on the inside to best combat the potential for brain injury. For two consecutive years, VICIS has earned the NFLPA’s highest safety rating as part of its annual helmet laboratory testing.
“It’s comfortable,” Cravens said. “You can see and there is a lot of cushion in it.”
Not long ago, Cravens said a doctor told him: “I don’t think you’re going to be able to play football anymore,” as the result of head injuries. It’s a dire diagnosis that Cravens, 22, still keeps in mind today as he enters what will be just his second NFL season on the field. “At that point it was, ‘I’ve got to get healthy and make sure I’m good and I have a long life to live,’” Cravens said.
That fight-another-day mentality, paired with a dynamic skill set as a run stuffer and pass defender, has already impressed teammates like safety Justin Simmons.
Cravens, a former second-round draft pick out of USC, recorded three starts with 34 tackles, one interception and one sack as a rookie in Washington.
“I think bringing in Su’a just gives us another level of our defense that we can totally explore,” Simmons said. “He gives us so much more versatility and mobility, both at safety and if we put him at like our dime and nickel packages. He’s also another smart safety, too. He’s already picking up the defense, knows it well and is making his checks. Su’a already seems like he’s been a Day 1 guy. Like he’s been here since all last year.”
Cravens added that the Broncos teammates have welcomed him with open arms.
Yet another reason to be thankful — even with a “big ol’ helmet.”
“I’ll never take this situation for granted,” Cravens said.