Around the League - Thursday, Sept.15

The Denver Broncos kept rookie kicker Paul Ernster on their roster and had him active for their regular-season opener so he could kick off. The problem was, he wasn't very good on kickoffs. Read about Ernster and other Hot Topics about the Broncos in today's edition of "Around the League."

Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb suffered a bruised chest in Monday night's 14-10 loss to the Atlanta Falcons that could put his availability for Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers in doubt.

McNabb took a vicious helmet shot in the sternum from Falcons defensive tackle Chad Lavalais in the first quarter. He stayed in the game, but didn't play very well, completing just 24 of 45 passes and not moving around much. He had just one rushing attempt for zero yards and opted not to run even when he had the opportunity.

Eagles coach Andy Reid said McNabb had an x-ray at halftime, as well as an MRI and CT scan Monday. He said there doesn't appear to be any serious damage, but acknowledged that the quarterback was in a lot of pain Monday morning.

"We knew he was hurting (during the game)," Reid said. "But it wasn't near as bad last night as when he woke up this morning. But he felt comfortable playing. He never said a word about it. He just went out and did his thing. We'll have to see how it works out here in the next day or two."

McNabb likely will be listed as questionable on the Eagles' Wednesday injury report. It's not clear who would start if he can't play against the Niners.

Koy Detmer is the club's No. 2 quarterback, ahead of Mike McMahon. But that's primarily because Detmer is kicker David Akers' holder. McMahon clearly outplayed Detmer in the preseason, and it has been assumed that, if McNabb was going to be out for an extended period of time, McMahon probably would leap-frog over Detmer into the starting job.

"We'll worry about that if Donovan can't go," Reid said. "I'm not going to talk about that right now."


HOT TOPIC The Denver Broncos kept rookie kicker Paul Ernster on their roster and had him active for their regular-season opener so he could kick off. The problem was, he wasn't very good on kickoffs.

Ernster kicked off three times. One went to the 5-yard line, one went to the 12 and one sailed out of bounds for a penalty. That penalty was costly because the Broncos had just scored a touchdown to cut Miami's lead to 20-10 in the fourth quarter. Miami took over at the 40-yard line after the penalty on the kickoff and scored on the next play.

The Broncos deactivated two cornerbacks and a running back in favor of Ernster on game day and were caught short at those positions when injuries struck. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan admitted he had to determine whether Ernster was worth keeping on the roster.

"We've got to make that tough decision on what's the best thing for the team," Shanahan said.

Ernster has kicked off consistently in practice but has not done so in games. He was uneven in the preseason but the Broncos kept him on the team because they saw what he could do in practice.

Ernster said he knew he didn't play well against Miami but he wanted another chance to show he is worthy of being the team's kickoff specialist this year.

"The film doesn't lie. I screwed up," Ernster said. "It happens. It's about how you respond to it and come back, and prove to the team you can do it."

--QB Jake Plummer had two interceptions against Miami, but Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said he didn't even count one that happened on a desperation heave on fourth and 10. However, Plummer didn't play well. The Broncos are relying on him more this season and he didn't deliver in the season opener.

--QB Bradlee Van Pelt did not play against the Dolphins in the season opener.

--RB Mike Anderson was surprised a painkilling shot did nothing for him when he took one for a rib injury during last week's game against Miami. He'll probably get another shot this week and see if he can play through the pain against San Diego.

--RB Tatum Bell had a chance to make a move on Mike Anderson during Denver's game last week but he didn't do so. Bell had 47 yards on 13 carries after Anderson went out with a rib injury and he was stuffed four times on the goal line.

--WR Rod Smith was one of the very few bright spots of Denver's first game. He led the team with seven catches for 90 yards. He still can get open, he has reliable hands and quarterback Jake Plummer can count on him in all situations.

--WR Ashley Lelie had a disappointing first game. He dropped many passes, including two potential touchdowns. Lelie should bounce back. He was targeted deep by Jake Plummer a few times and one bad game won't dissuade Plummer from going to him again.

--WR Charlie Adams has the third receiver spot and he had a decent game in the season opener, catching two passes. Adams had a consistent camp and preseason and the Broncos feel they can trust him more than Darius Watts.

--TE Jeb Putzier didn't start ahead of Stephen Alexander, but he played a lot because the Broncos used a lot of two tight end sets. Putzier caught seven passes. Many of those were late in the game when the Dolphins had a big lead, but Putzier should be a dangerous receiving threat all season.

--K Jason Elam hit his only field goal against Miami on the dirt infield of Dolphins Stadium. Elam started well last season, missing only one field goal in his first six games.

--CB Darrent Williams is next in line to start if Champ Bailey can't play Sunday with a dislocated shoulder. However, fellow rookie Domonique Foxworth played well against Miami and is also an option to replace Bailey.

--S Nick Ferguson led the Broncos with 12 tackles against Miami. Ferguson is a big hitter and a good tackler who is replacing Kenoy Kennedy in the starting lineup.

--DE Trevor Pryce was one of many defensive linemen who couldn't get any heat on Dolphins QB Gus Frerotte. The Broncos need to generate a much better pass rush with their front four, especially if Champ Bailey misses a game or two.

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