Broncos Update Insider - Tuesday, August 8

If you made a list of players the Denver Broncos could not afford to lose this season, defensive tackle Gerard Warren's name would be near the top of the list. That's what made Warren's injury on August 5 so scary for the Broncos.

Warren went down during a goal-line drill, screaming in pain. He dislocated his big left toe and will be out two to four weeks. But the injury initially looked much worse.

"I was real concerned, I didn't know what it was," linebacker Al Wilson said. "I thought it was an ankle. It was a big toe, so that's encouraging."

The Broncos couldn't have expected much better news than a dislocated toe. Warren didn't have a fracture and won't need surgery.

"A dislocation is obviously bad, but if you fracture it, you'll be out for the season," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.

The injury scare was a reminder how much the Broncos are relying on Warren this year. Warren was given a six-year, $36 million contract in the offseason. He had a solid year in the middle of Denver's defense last year after some disappointing seasons in Cleveland, and the Broncos coaches said they wanted to utilize his talents more this year.

Warren was going to be let loose to make plays in the backfield, much like Warren Sapp was when Sapp was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Last season Warren spent a lot of time occupying blockers to let Denver's talented linebackers make plays.

Warren's workload was also going to increase. Unlike the other three starters on the defensive line, Warren wasn't being rotated out in passing situations during training camp.

Denver's lack of depth on the defensive line is also an issue. Behind Warren, the top tackles are Demetrin Veal, Amon Gordon and Elvis Dumervil. Veal has played 18 career games, Gordon was out all last year with a knee injury and Dumervil, an under-sized rookie, played end in college.

End Ebenezer Ekuban has moved inside during some passing situations, but he wouldn't be a long-term answer if Warren were to miss any time. And there's a chance Warren could miss some time in the regular season, or at least be at full speed by then. Warren, who was having a very good camp before the injury, will probably miss most, and maybe all, of the preseason and the coaches hope that he's ready to go by the season opener.

"I'm not worried about the preseason," Shanahan said.

CAMP CALENDAR: Camp breaks on Aug. 18, before Denver's second preseason game. Denver has been having record attendance at its Dove Valley facilities for camp practices.

NOTES, QUOTES --The Broncos didn't hand first round pick Jay Cutler anything. He started as the third quarterback behind Jake Plummer and Bradlee Van Pelt and had to work his way up. With some good practices, Cutler has been getting more time with the second-team offense.

"I wouldn't say Bradlee is light years ahead of him," quarterbacks coach Pat McPherson said. "I would say Jay is creeping a little bit."

--The Broncos once again are trying to find answers at kickoff and punt return during camp. Darrent Williams took about half of the punt returns for Denver last year and special teams coach Ronnie Bradford wants him to take about 70 percent this year.

That means the Broncos need to find a reliable backup punt returner, and a kickoff returner. Williams is unlikely to fill that role because of his job as a starting cornerback. The candidates for each job are running back Mike Bell and receivers Brandon Marshall, David Kircus and Charlie Adams.

"I'd like to see one of these young guys step up," Bradford said.

--Receiver David Kircus spent two years with the Detroit Lions, then a year out of football working at Subway, making sandwiches.

"I knew the guy who owned it and he paid me very well to work there, so I figured I might as well eat free while I work out," Kircus said. "I'm not too proud to do anything like that."

Kircus has been fifth on the depth chart at receiver most of camp and has a chance to make the team because of his ability to play special teams.

--The Broncos don't do much hazing to their rookies, but they do make each of them get up in a team meeting and tell a story or joke, or sing a song. And the rookies better be entertaining.

"If you don't show up and make some guys laugh, you're doing it all over again the next day," said tight end Tony Scheffler, a second-round pick whose first joke attempt fell flat. "The second time I searched long and hard for a joke, practiced it all day and came through."

--The Broncos hosted airmen from the 21st and 50th Space Wings, who are stationed at Peterson Air Force Base and Schriever Air Force Base, for a day of training camp.

"We just wanted to bring them back up here to show them our appreciation for what they are doing," quarterback Jake Plummer said.

--Defensive tackle Demetrin Veal will likely take Gerard Warren's place in the starting lineup while Warren is out with a dislocated toe. Veal has one sack in 18 career games.

"When somebody goes down you have to come in and pick the slack up," Veal said. "That's the way we play, no dropoff when someone else goes down."

--Linebacker Nate Webster, who has missed most of the last two seasons with knee injuries, flattened running back Tatum Bell on a hit that has been one of the highlights of training camp.

"I feel like I'm back to my old self," Webster said. "That made it complete. It's been a long road to recovery and that let me know I'm back."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think we got better as a football team. I like where we're at." -- S John Lynch on the state of the team after the first full week of training camp.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

--CB Domonique Foxworth hasn't played poorly. In fact, he had a couple of impressive interceptions one day about a week into camp. But unless Darrent Williams suddenly slips up, Foxworth might be relegated to nickel duty. Williams is having a very strong camp.

--WR Ashley Lelie's holdout continues. Lelie wants to be traded because he doesn't think he will get a chance to be the No. 1 receiver in Denver. The Broncos are hoping to get a first-day draft pick or player that can help them right away in exchange for Lelie.

--TE Tony Scheffler has had some inconsistent moments during camp, but he is showing why the Broncos used a second-round pick on him. He has good speed and soft hands. He will probably be a big part of the passing game as the second tight end.

--OT Adam Meadows will have a shot to win the starting right tackle spot from George Foster, but only if he's healthy. His shoulder, which caused his retirement in 2004, hasn't been an issue but he suffered a hamstring injury that could limit him.

--CB Karl Paymah is playing better in his second year, but he will have a tough time moving up the depth chart. He is behind Champ Bailey, Darrent Williams and Domonique Foxworth. But the Broncos are confident Paymah can contribute if needed.



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