Around the League - Wednesday, Oct. 12

The Denver Broncos' tailback committee is going well and it is unlikely to change. Backup Tatum Bell has been playing well. He ran for two long touchdowns against Washington and had 127 yards. But starter Mike Anderson hasn't been playing poorly either, although the Redskins bottled him up. Read more on the tailbacks as well as other Hot Topics about the Denver Broncos in today's edition of "Around the League."

Michael Vick's status for this week's game against the Saints remains in limbo. Fortunately for the Falcons, Matt Schaub played well in Vick's absence against New England, and the second-year pro likely would find more success against Atlanta's longest-standing rival.

It simply makes no sense to play Vick unless he's 85 percent healthy or better. The Falcons stand to lose a lot more than they can gain if he hurts the knee further with a bye approaching in the final week of the month.

After traveling to San Antonio, Atlanta will host the Jets in a Monday night game and then take the next week off. Missing the next two games would give Vick four weeks off, and his sprained right knee would be in better shape for the second half of the season.

If Vick shows up Wednesday and proves to the medical staff that he's ready, he will practice and then start against the Saints unless there's another setback.

"I have to believe that Michael made progress," coach Jim Mora said. "We will see if it is enough in my opinion to play him. Of course, I told you that last week, too."

A bigger concern is how the defensive players respond after the Patriots handed them their heads.

No question that the losses of middle linebacker Ed Hartwell and nickel cornerback Chris Cash are huge. Both went down with season-ending injuries against New England. But regardless of whether Keith Brooking moves back inside or Ike Reese takes the job full-time, this week probably won't tell you much about the long-term effect of Hartwell's injury.

If Deuce McAllister were healthy for the Saints, gauging the status of the new middle linebacker would be easier to do. McAllister, as left end Patrick Kerney said in 2002, is "the truth." He runs with force and is hard to tackle, but facing Antowain Smith should be less demanding.

DENVER BRONCOS

HOT TOPIC

The Denver Broncos' tailback committee is going well and it is unlikely to change.

Backup Tatum Bell has been playing well. He ran for two long touchdowns against Washington and had 127 yards. But starter Mike Anderson hasn't been playing poorly either, although the Redskins bottled him up.

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan hadn't used a committee in his first 10 seasons with Denver. But he likes the mix of the powerful Anderson, speedy Bell and Ron Dayne, whose downhill style fits the Broncos offense.

Shanahan said although he likes that Bell has been more consistent in practice and has been healthy, but didn't sound inclined to change his rotation. He likes having Bell fresh for the entire game.

"When you have a guy like that you don't want to overwork him," Shanahan said.

Bell, who before the season didn't know how much playing time he would get behind Anderson, said he is pleased to be a part of the running game. He has 27 carries the past two games. But Bell said he also still wants to be an every-down back.

"I want to be the starter, I want to be the guy to carry the load and get those 25-30 carries," Bell said. "It's not working like that now, but when I get my chance I have to take advantage."

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Jake Plummer had a tough day in rainy and windy conditions against Washington. Plummer had only 92 yards passing. Plummer had more than 4,000 yards passing last year but is on pace for less than 3,000 this season.

--QB Bradlee Van Pelt didn't play against Washington and hasn't played all season.

--RB Mike Anderson didn't have a big day against Washington. He averaged 3.1 yards per carry. But Broncos coach Mike Shanahan likes Anderson's pounding style and Tatum Bell will probably continue to be a change-of-pace back.

--RB Tatum Bell's big-play ability has been a big boost for Denver's offense. Bell already has four runs of 20 yards or more on only 45 carries this season.

--WR Rod Smith caught 22 passes the first three weeks of the season and only six in the Broncos' past two games. Smith, the leader of the offense, would not complain about any drop in catches.

--WR Ashley Lelie caught a red-zone touchdown for the first time since 2002, but he only caught one pass against the Redskins. The Broncos tried going deep to Lelie often but he couldn't haul in any big plays.

--WR Charlie Adams is Denver's third receiver but he has almost the same statistics as starter Ashley Lelie. Lelie has 11 catches for 113 yards, and Adams has 10 for 109.

--TE Jeb Putzier finally caught a long pass against the Redskins. His 31-yard catch was not only his longest this season, but the longest the Broncos have had all year.

--K Jason Elam didn't attempt a field goal against Washington. He made all three extra-point attempts.

--DT Gerard Warren has a fourth-down sack in the fourth quarter against the Redskins taken away because of a penalty in the secondary. But against Washington, Warren showed again why the Broncos have been so excited about him since he came to them from Cleveland.

--LB Ian Gold's pass breakup on Washington's two-point conversion was only the latest big play by Gold. He was the first free agent Denver signed this off-season and he has been worth the money the Broncos paid for him.

--CB Champ Bailey hasn't played in two straight games and the Broncos are 2-0 without him. But Bailey's absence could be more important against Tom Brady and the Patriots deep set of receivers. Bailey said he hopes to play this week.



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