Around the League - Wednesday, Sept. 21

The Broncos released rookie kickoff specialist Paul Ernster and signed running back Quentin Griffin, their starting tailback at the beginning of the 2004 season. Griffin was among the final cuts before the regular season. Read more about Griffin and other Hot Topics in today's edition of Around the League.

Here's the catch with LaDainian Tomlinson: he doesn't have any.

The Chargers are without wins and Tomlinson is minus receptions.

"I want to be utilized a little bit more than I am," said Tomlinson, who has rushed for 124 yards and three touchdowns in the Chargers' season-opening two losses.

Tomlinson, a two-time Pro Bowler, seeks his first reception. This, after averaging nearly 73 catches in his first four years.

He's the only back in NFL history to have 100 receptions and a 1,000-yard rushing season.

"Just use me like they have been using me," he said. "I'm more than just a ball-carrier, but I don't want this to seem like I'm complaining about not getting the ball."

Tomlinson is biting his tongue through his request, not looking to rock an already wobbly offense.

"I've had the ball 19 times the past two games and any time you get the ball that much, you got to be able to make something happen and I just haven't done it," Tomlinson said.

The Chargers like to shoot for some 30 touches in a game by Tomlinson. Instead, he has 38 touches in two games.

This time last year, he had 45 rushes (208 yards, two TDs) and six catches (72 yards, with a long of 59).

Coach Marty Schottenheimer said the repeated blitzes and coverages the Chargers are facing make it imperative for Tomlinson to block.

"What we are getting is considerable man-to-man coverage and there is pressure," he said. "And protection in the passing game comes first."

Still, can't the Chargers figure some way to get one of the NFL's biggest weapons the ball? With the offensive line struggling, Tomlinson's best shot could be by creating his own space on routes. He certainly has the hands and feet to breathe life in an offense that had 41 second-half yards in the loss at Denver.

"I'm so used to catching some balls out of the backfield," Tomlinson said. "And even in a game like (Sunday), they were playing well against the run. I would have liked to have my opportunity to go up against (safety John) Lynch and some of the linebackers, running routes out of the backfield."

As the Chargers' path heads down, Tomlinson wants his work to go up.

"I'm a competitive person," Tomlinson said. "I feel like I can do more. But at the same time we do have other players on the team that can make plays."



The Broncos released rookie kickoff specialist Paul Ernster and signed running back Quentin Griffin, their starting tailback at the beginning of the 2004 season. Griffin was among the final cuts before the regular season.

Ernster kicked off against Miami in Week 1 but struggled. None of his kickoffs went past the 5-yard line and his last kick went out of bounds. He was considered for an active roster spot last week against San Diego, but he came down with a minor knee injury while auditioning in pregame warm-ups. Punter Todd Sauerbrun was consistent in warm-ups and got the nod -- Ernster was inactive.

"Todd was kicking them about 8 yards deep in both directions so we decided to go with one kicker," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.

Shanahan said on Monday that Ernster and Sauerbrun would compete to see who would kick off next Monday against Kansas City and their dangerous return man Dante Hall, but Ernster didn't get the opportunity.

The Broncos have rarely used a kickoff specialist under Shanahan, and Ernster didn't do enough to earn an active spot on gameday.

"If your guy is kicking off, and that's all he's doing, he better be kicking that thing out of the end zone," Shanahan said.

Ernster can be added to the practice squad. The team cut quarterback Kliff Kingsbury from the practice squad on Tuesday.

Griffin, who was still not 100 percent in the preseason after suffering a torn ACL in the middle of last season, provides some depth if Tatum Bell's ankle injury lingers. Mike Anderson and Ron Dayne are Denver's top two backs and Griffin might be active if Bell can't go, to make sure the team isn't short at tailback against Kansas City.


--QB Jake Plummer didn't take many chances against San Diego. He had 248 yards on 37 attempts. Rod Smith's 20-yard gain was the longest by a Broncos wide receiver. Plummer has one touchdown pass in two games.

--QB Bradlee Van Pelt didn't play against San Diego.

--RB Mike Anderson will probably need some time before he is 100 percent. He is playing through separated rib cartilage. He averaged only 3.3 yards per attempt against the Chargers, partially because of the injury.

--RB Ron Dayne gave Denver a spark on its final drive. The Broncos two longest runs of the game came by Dayne on their final possession. Anderson is still the starter but Dayne could see more carries in upcoming weeks.

--WR Rod Smith led Denver for a second straight week with eight catches for 83 yards. Smith has shown no signs of slowing down in his 11th season. His is closing in on 10,000 yards for his career.

--WR Ashley Lelie had a different role against San Diego, as an option in the short passing game. Rarely has Lelie been used as a receiver who catches a short pass and has to make some yards out of it. He had six catches for 62 yards. He should set a career high in catches if Denver continues to use him that way.

--WR Charlie Adams had three catches for 31 yards. He has been sure-handed in Denver's first two games, something Darius Watts was not. That's why Adams is ahead of Watts on the depth chart.

--TE Jeb Putzier's stats from Sunday's game were misleading. He had one catch for 16 yards. But he also had a 36-yard touchdown called back because of a personal foul on offensive tackle George Foster. Putzier is one of the best deep options in the league at the tight end position.

--K Jason Elam missed two field goals against the Chargers. But they were both from 53 yards out, and Elam is getting used to new holder Todd Sauerbrun. Elam hit a game-winning 40-yard field goal with five seconds left.

--CB Champ Bailey is playing at a high level and teams might start shying away from throwing his way. Bailey has played six quarters this season and has caused three turnovers. Teams have tested Bailey because he had some poor games last season, but they might start having second thoughts this year.

--DT Demetrin Veal made the team over some veterans and high draft picks, but it's because he is active and can rush the passer. He had a sack against the Chargers after being inactive in Week 1.

--S Sam Brandon played against the Chargers when the Broncos wanted an extra defensive back on the field to guard tight end Antonio Gates. Brandon impressed the team by filling in at cornerback when Denver suffered some injuries at the position against Miami.

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