Denver Broncos Hot Topics - Wed., Jan. 11

Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams sounded much less optimistic Monday about playing in this week's playoff game than he did a week ago. Read about Williams and all the latest personnel news in today's edition of "Hot Topics" about the Broncos.

Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams sounded much less optimistic about playing in this week's playoff game than he did a week ago.

Williams, who injured his groin on Dec. 11 and hasn't played since, said he felt "about 60 percent" healthy after going through practice on Monday, Denver's first since its bye week. Williams said last week he was healthy enough to play if the Broncos had a first-round playoff game, but sounded more pessimistic once preparation started for Denver's first playoff game against New England.

Williams ruled out returning kickoffs and punts but said he wanted to get some time on defense.

"I feel like I'm definitely going to play, but it's not really my call," Williams said. "If it's my call, I'm definitely playing."

Denver could use Williams in a limited role on defense. He has had a very good rookie season and has a knack for getting his hands on the ball when it's in the air. The Patriots have many playmaking receivers and Denver doesn't want to be caught short in the secondary.

Williams said he thought the coaches would have him active for Saturday's game but he needed to show in practice that he is healthy. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said Williams isn't able to do everything in practice yet but added that Williams had a chance to play.

"If there's not a setback he'll be ready to play," Shanahan said.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Jake Plummer is 1-3 in the playoffs in his career. He has lost twice in two playoff games as Denver's quarterback, but both games got out of control at Indianapolis because the Colts put up so many points in the first half. Plummer needs to manage the game against New England well and hit some plays against their vulnerable secondary.

--QB Bradlee Van Pelt got some much-needed experience in Denver's regular-season finale against San Diego. The Broncos hope they don't need to use Van Pelt again until next season.

--RB Mike Anderson won't have it easy against New England's run defense, which has played very well over the second half of the season. Anderson needs to grind out some yards to help Denver win time of possession, which is a key battle for them against the Patriots.

--RB Tatum Bell will be a big key for the Broncos against New England. Bell is one of the Broncos' few big-play threats on offense. The Patriots had trouble with Bell's speed in the first meeting this season.

--WR Rod Smith will lead the way for a Broncos team that is long removed from its Super Bowl success. Smith was on those back-to-back championship teams and he knows what it takes to win in the playoffs. Smith is one of the leaders in Denver's locker room and his influence will be important against an experienced New England team.

--WR Ashley Lelie will probably get a chance to make a big play or two. Denver usually makes a point to get Lelie involved in the deep passing game, and they probably will do so against a New England team the Broncos beat for many long plays back in October.

--WR Charlie Adams will continue to return punts for the Broncos. Cornerback Darrent Williams is still feeling a bit sore with a groin injury and has ruled himself out of returning kicks against New England. Adams doesn't have great speed but he is adept at picking up yards.

--TE Jeb Putzier will probably be an important part of Denver's offensive plan against New England. The Broncos like to create matchup problems with Putzier because he is versatile. He can line up split out as a receiver because he has good speed and hands.

--K Jason Elam shouldn't be affected by playoff pressure. He has kicked in two Super Bowls and many playoff games. Elam has also kicked in bad weather, so whatever the Broncos deal with on Saturday night in Denver shouldn't be a big problem for him.

--DT Gerard Warren could be a factor in Saturday's game. He'll be spending plenty of time going against Patriots rookie guard Logan Mankins. Warren, who had a good season, hasn't had a big game in a while for the Broncos.

--CB/S Curome Cox would be Denver's nickel cornerback if injured Darrent Williams can't play. Cox and safety Sam Brandon have split that role for the past few weeks and have played well.

--CB Champ Bailey hasn't matched up exclusively with one receiver that often this season, and there probably isn't any reason to lock him up with any of the Patriots' receivers. Deion Branch is the best of New England's receivers but David Givens and Troy Brown are also capable of making plays, so Denver probably won't feel pressured to have Bailey shadow Branch.



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