Around the League - Monday, Sept. 25

If defensive end Courtney Brown can avoid injuries -- a big if considering he missed 31 games the past four years because he was hurt -- the Broncos are excited about what he could bring to their defense. Read more about Brown and other Hot Topics about the Denver Broncosin today's edition of Around the League.

After opening the season as the Vikings' No. 1 running back, Michael Bennett has become the team's forgotten man.

Benched in the second quarter of the Vikings' Week 2 loss in Cincinnati after losing two fumbles, Bennett was on the field for two fourth-quarter plays in the Vikings' 33-16 victory over New Orleans on Sunday.

Bennett was handed the ball on both occasions, gaining a total of 4 yards before departing. Mewelde Moore got the majority of the work against the Saints, carrying 23 times for 101 yards. It was the Vikings' first 100-yard rushing game of the season.

"I thought I would play a little more," Bennett said. "For me (it's important) to keep my head up, keep my confidence and just keep battling through it ... just stay focused. I've been in this league for five years; I've been here this long, and ... I'm a pro. So, I understand the business part of the game. My thing is to keep my head up, stay healthy and look forward to the future."

That future certainly does not appear to be in Minnesota. The Vikings reportedly talked to the Arizona Cardinals last week about a deal involving Bennett. He is in the last season of his contract and at this point it appears the Vikings would have little interest in keeping him.

"I don't know, it's too early to say," Bennett said when asked about his future. "I'll leave that to those who have the power or have the control. But I'll be back, it's no issue right now."

Moore, who leads the Vikings with 130 yards on 31 carries in three games, has another opportunity to establish himself as the Vikings' top running back. He impressed in 2003 as a rookie, rushing for 339 yards over a three-game span, but a sprained left ankle slowed him for much of the second half of the season.

Moore sprained the same ankle this preseason and did not have a rushing attempt in the season opener against Tampa Bay.

"Mewelde Moore runs hard; he has to take his game to the next level and finish drives," coach Mike Tice said. "He has a long way to go; he made a number of mistakes like everyone did. ... But he has a lot of talent. He's smart, he's tough. He has a knack for breaking tackles. He has a strong lower body, and he has a desire to be good, so it was a plus for us to get him going in there."

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DENVER BRONCOS
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HOT TOPIC

The Broncos hoped when they signed defensive end Courtney Brown that he could just stay healthy.

The Broncos looked at Brown on film and saw flashes of the player who was once the first overall pick of the draft.

"When he's played, he's played extremely well," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.

The Broncos had to wait for a while to see the Brown who played so well in college at Penn State because he was hurt, something the Cleveland Browns became accustomed to. Brown dislocated his elbow a week into training camp this summer and missed the entire preseason and Denver's first game.

But Brown played in Week 2, and the player that the Broncos had told everybody about was on display. Brown played well against San Diego. He picked up a sack when he powered left tackle Roman Oben backward into quarterback Drew Brees.

"It felt good to be out there," Brown said. "It was a blessing to be out there. It had been awhile since I was on a playing field, so it felt good."

If Brown can avoid injuries -- a big if considering he missed 31 games the past four years because he was hurt -- the Broncos are excited about what he could bring to their defense. Brown was slated to be Denver's starting strong-side end. Weak-side end Trevor Pryce would benefit if Brown can draw some attention away from him.

The Broncos think Brown, who is an impressive physical presence, can handle the responsibilities the strong-side position has against the run and he can also get a pass rush as he did against San Diego.

"His deal is as a presence in the running game and as a pass rusher," assistant defensive line coach Andre Patterson said. "I think that's going to add a good element to our defense."

PLAYER NOTES

--TE Stephen Alexander hasn't been a big part of Denver's passing game. His role looks pretty clear, that he'll be the blocker and Jeb Putzier will be the downfield target when the Broncos use both tight ends.

--RB Quentin Griffin, who was re-signed last week, can be a different type of back for the Broncos. They have always liked his quickness and ability to make tacklers miss in the open field. If there are injuries, Griffin could have a role in Denver's backfield.

--DT Gerard Warren is off to a good start with the Broncos. Warren has talent, he just struggled with the expectations placed on him in Cleveland. The Broncos feel he can have a big year now that he's not saddled with so much pressure.

--QB Bradlee Van Pelt is the only quarterback in Denver's organization other than Jake Plummer. The team released Kliff Kingsbury. The Broncos might bring in another young quarterback for the practice squad or a veteran to be the third quarterback later in the year.

--WR Darius Watts will have a tough time getting more playing time as the season goes on. He was dropped from third to fourth on the depth chart at receiver, and third receiver Charlie Adams is playing well. Watts had problems with dropped passes, which is why he fell out of favor.


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