Broncos Update Insider - Tuesday, Dec. 14

Broncos running back Tatum Bell might be able to build off his strong performance last Sunday against Miami, because he hasn't been ruled out of Denver's game this week at Kansas City despite a separated shoulder. <br><br>After Reuben Droughns (in photo) fumbled twice on Denver's opening drive Sunday, losing one, he was benched in favor of Bell, a rookie second-round pick.

Bell rushed for 123 yards on 17 carries and a pair of touchdowns, but was knocked out of the game early in the third quarter when he separated his left shoulder.

Bell had a third-degree separation, but he said he wants to play this week and probably will be able to if he can manage the pain.

"Tatum would like to play and feels encouraged about it," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.

Shanahan said Droughns is still the No. 1 tailback, but Bell will continue to get carries if he can play.

Bell might have gotten his chance to carry the load earlier this season, but injuries have set him back. After a short holdout in training camp Bell broke his finger in his first training camp practice. He also missed practice time during the regular season with rib and hamstring injuries.

"It's frustrating," Bell said. "I know I'm not injury prone, that's just the way the ball bounces for me this year. I have to keep my head up, and if I'm able to come back I will."

NOTES, QUOTES
--Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said he didn't want to make a big deal out of the obscene gesture Jake Plummer made to a heckling fan during Sunday's game at Miami. Plummer made the gesture after throwing an interception.

"I think he said it best: Let's not try to over-analyze it," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "He says, 'Hey, a guy got to me. I did something wrong and I apologize for it.' What more can the guy say?"

--DE Trevor Pryce could make his return to the lineup against Kansas City. Pryce has only played in one game this season because of a disc problem in his back that required surgery, but said he is feeling better and improved each day he practiced last week. Pryce said he won't know for sure if he can play until he practices on Wednesday, but thought it was a 50-50 chance.

"If I can keep my balance and run, I'll play," Pryce said.

--Broncos owner Pat Bowlen angrily questioned the accuracy of a television report last week that Mike Shanahan was offered the head coaching job at Notre Dame, then said he expected Shanahan to return to coach the Broncos in 2005.

"When have I ever said any different?" Bowlen said. "He's got four years to go on his (expletive) contract, and I'm not firing him."

--CB Willie Middlebrooks will miss the rest of the season with a torn ligament between his tibia and fibula in his right leg. Middlebrooks, a former first-round pick, was having his best season before the injury.

--CB Jeff Shoate will probably be active on game days now that Willie Middlebrooks is done for the season. Rookie Roc Alexander will probably be the nickel cornerback and Shoate, a rookie fifth-round pick, will play in the dime defense.

--RB Garrison Hearst will have a role in the offense against Kansas City if Tatum Bell can't play because of an injured shoulder. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said Hearst could get 5-10 carries if he is the No. 2 back on Sunday.

--RB Reuben Droughns is still Denver's starting tailback, according to Shanahan, but Droughns said he wants to continue as the Broncos' kickoff returner as well. Droughns started the season on kickoff return, then was relieved of that role when he became Denver's starting tailback. The Broncos struggled to find a kickoff returner to replace Droughns, so they put Droughns back in that spot against Miami.

--DT Luther Elliss should be able to practice and probably play this week. Elliss has missed four games with a calf injury. He will play on passing downs if he can play at Kansas City.

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