ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — It's all setting up for the storybook return—Denver Broncos star Shane Ray gets back on the field against his hometown team, the Kansas City Chiefs, who may be undefeated, in Arrowhead Stadium, with his whole family on hand.
Ray, who has been out since the early stages of training camp with a torn ligament in his left wrist, is set to re-join the team for Monday Night Football matchup on Oct. 30. The big calendar in his locker will tell you that is exactly 21 days from today and 14 days from when he is set to join practice, next Monday.
With the stars aligned for one of the biggest games of the season, in front of a national audience and the division lead potentially on the line, it's hard to imagine anything that could make the game bigger for the former first-round pick... but there is something.
"So," he told BSN Denver, "my cousin lives with me."
As noted above, Ray grew up in Kansas City; his whole family is from there. They're all Chiefs fans. You see where this is going.
"I have to see him in his red Chiefs jumpsuit on game day," Ray said, shaking his head. "I have to hear him talk about how good the Chiefs are and this and that."
Here's the thing though, Shane grew up a Chiefs fan. He was infamously criticized by Broncos fans last year for getting the KC logo tattooed on his back. But if there's one thing his former Chiefs fandom does, it gives him a wealth of fodder for comebacks.
"I know their history," he claims with an evil smirk.
Ray is not reserved in reminding his raucous roommate that the Chiefs have never won a playoff game after being the last unbeaten team in football, or that the Broncos have appeared in eight and won three Super Bowls since the Chiefs last made it to the big one back in 1970.
He knows how to hit all of the soft spots.
"Look, as much excitement as you have from them doing what they're doing," he tells his cousin, "they're the Chiefs."
Shane's swipes probably don't help, but this is not a situation where the family member who he lives with roots for the Orage & Blue when they aren't playing his beloved Chiefs.
"He die-hard hates the Broncos," Ray shared with a laugh. "He doesn't care that I'm on the team and I'm his cousin. He literally wears Chiefs jerseys to the Broncos games. That's my cousin."
"I respect it because that's where we're from, everybody is like that, everybody is Chiefs fans," he added, "but I play for the Broncos, this is my team, this team is my opportunity to do a lot of things. It's just funny, man, having to deal with that."
The Broncos second-best pass rusher is geared up and ready to go, he got his pins out, he no longer has any concern about the strength in his hand, and he is literally counting down the days until his return.
"I don't think it could play out any better. With how well the Chiefs are playing, I feel like we're the team to beat them. I feel like we're the team that balances up against them very well and for me to come back in that game to add some pass rush, I'm so excited. I want to be a part of the reason why we take them down and really take over our division."
If and when that time comes around, you may have to give a little credit to the motivation brought to him by the very fact that, "living with a Chiefs fan is awful."