A.J. Derby was still learning the Patriot Way when he was told to head to the airport. The tight end, who is in his first full season in Denver, was sent to the Broncos ahead of the trade deadline last season. Derby is an understated member of the Broncos’ locker room. He’s courteous yet concise. A hunt for bulletin board material wouldn’t begin at his locker. Yet, Derby made it clear this week. He’s eager to face the team that sent him packing last season. He spoke with The Denver Post about playing the Patriots, becoming a new father and honoring the military ahead of Sunday’s Salute to Service game.
Q: I think a lot of people don’t take into account the personal toll on a player when he gets traded in the middle of a season. What was that like last year?
A: It was midseason, so it was really tough. My wife was a champ for it because I just took the first flight out the next morning after I found out. She was just left with the whole house and all the furniture and everything to get moved across the country. It’s just not easy learning a new playbook and learning guys. But it’s been good and I’m happy to be here. I’m excited to play the Patriots.
Q: So is playing the Patriots business as usual?
A: I wouldn’t say that. In my mind, I’m super competitive. Every time I play against them, I’m going to think they messed up by getting rid of me. That’s my mentality. That’s how I’m going to go into the game and approach it.
Q: You spent your off day last week visiting active-duty service members in Colorado Springs. How did that go?
A: It was a great experience. We got to sit there and eat lunch with the guys, shoot the crap and really see what they’ve been through. It was really cool. It really puts into perspective their work ethic and how much they do for us.
Q: You’ve often jumped at the opportunities to spend time with service members. Why is that?
A: I’m just very appreciative of what they do. At the end of the day, we couldn’t do what we do without them. They are the reason we are so free as a country and are able to do what we want and speak how we want. We’re just, overall, super thankful for them giving their lives and going over there.
Q: I understand you are going to honor the military during the “My Cause, My Cleats” Game? (That game, in Week 13, allows players to wear customized cleats in support of charities or causes of their choice.)
A: Yeah, I’m going to be using mine for TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), which is a great organization. I’m really excited about it.
Q: You recently became a father for the first time. What’s that been like? (Derby and his wife welcomed a baby girl named Charlie Jo.)
A: It’s been great. At the end of the day, you have a little more to play for, a little more to think about. You’re playing for a little baby that doesn’t know anything, and in the future you get to talk to her and show her the way. I’m just really excited to be a dad and just show her the way.
Q: I’ve heard guys say that has the ability to put long days, losing games and things like that into perspective.
A: Yeah, it really helps you get away from football. Obviously, you have your stuff you have to study and everything like that. But it helps get your mind off it because when you’re home, I just really want to spend time with my daughter. Then, when she goes to bed, I get back into the film. But it just really gets your mind off it for those couple hours she’s awake.