Broncos Update Insider - Monday, Aug. 14

Denver Broncos rookie Mike Bell was given the chance to win the starting tailback job, but he has to prove now that he won't fumble in game situations. Check out the latest on Bell and all the rest of the Denver Broncos in today's edition of Broncos Update Insider.

Bell's preseason debut was spoiled by a fumble at the end of his first drive. Bell ran through the middle, got spun around and Lions linebacker Paris Lenon hit Bell, getting his helmet on the ball. The ball popped out and Detroit recovered.

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan met Bell when he went to the sideline and yelled at him for the turnover.

"That didn't help his debut," Shanahan said.

But Shanahan was rather calm about the fumble. He said that play was one of the reasons he wanted to give young players like Bell experience in the preseason, when they can learn without the mistakes being too costly. He also compared Bell's fumble to Clinton Portis, who had trouble hanging onto the ball in preseason his rookie year. Portis started most of his rookie season for Denver and became one of the best backs in the NFL.

"It's very similar to what Clinton Portis went through, especially early in those preseason games," Shanahan said. "So a lot of reason why you want to play these young guys early is to get them ready for what's going to happen in the season."

Bell was undrafted out of Arizona and signed with the Broncos as a free agent. He has looked good during training camp, but it was still a surprise when he was promoted to the first team so quickly. He looked good on a few runs against Detroit, gaining 20 yards on seven carries, but the fumble was the only thing on his mind.

"It was bad," Bell said. "There's no excuse. You can say I was a rookie or it was my jitters but there's no excuse. I've been playing football my whole life and I need to know how to hang onto the ball."

Bell likely won't lose his job after the Detroit game, because none of the other tailbacks had a big game.

Backup Tatum Bell had 26 yards on five carries, but 15 yards came on a draw play that fooled the Lions right before the end of the half. Tatum Bell did have a nice 19-yard gain on a screen pass. Third-string back Ron Dayne didn't play in the first half and didn't play well in the second half. He had 12 yards on five carries. Fourth-string back Cedric Cobbs was Denver's leading rusher with 42 yards on 11 carries.

CAMP CALENDAR: Camp breaks on Aug. 18, before Denver's second preseason game.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Broncos' starting defense played one series in the preseason opener against Detroit. Denver allowed a couple of long third-down conversions but held the Lions to a field goal once they got inside the 20-yard line.

"It was all right, C-minus," linebacker Al Wilson said. "We did some good things but we also saw some things we can get better at."

--Receiver David Kircus had a 26-yard touchdown catch and led the Broncos with six catches for 76 yards in their preseason opener against Detroit, a huge step for him in his fight for a roster spot. Kircus has been running fifth on the Broncos' depth chart for most of training camp. He also returns kickoffs and punts, which should help his chances of making the team.

Kircus grew up in Michigan and had about 100 friends and family members at the game, but he said he wasn't nervous.

"To tell you the truth, I didn't think about making the roster," Kircus said. "When I was at Detroit that was always in the back of my mind, that I had to do good because I'm on the bubble. I went out tonight and had fun."

--Broncos running back Tatum Bell wasn't happy that he was passed over for a promotion when rookie Mike Bell was elevated from third to first on the depth chart after nine days of training camp.

Tatum Bell said he thinks the Broncos coaches don't trust him and he might never get the chance to win the starting job.

"I think they don't think I can be the man, period," Tatum Bell said.

--Defensive end Courtney Brown will miss the entire preseason after having knee surgery Aug. 9 to clean up some cartilage. Brown was bothered by the knee so he got the procedure done in time to heal for the season opener.

"The surgery went well," coach Mike Shanahan said.

--The Broncos expressed concern about Maurice Clarett, their third-round pick in 2005 who was cut before the preseason ended and was arrested with four loaded guns in his car on Aug. 9 in Columbus, Ohio.

"He's got some heavy issues," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "It's just a shame this has happened to a guy with so much promise and ability."

Clarett alienated his teammates during training camp last year. Broncos safety Nick Ferguson said he tried to reach out to Clarett last year, but Clarett kept to himself.

"You couldn't see that type of mentality or emotional state, as far as what he's doing right now," Ferguson said. "If he is having emotional problems, he needs to get help, seriously."

--Kicker Jason Elam said he missed only three kicks in about 36 attempts during the first couple weeks of training camp. Elam, 36, said he's ready for the season to begin.

"I feel great," Elam said. "The older I get, I'm trying to be smarter about how I do things. I used to come out and not stretch and start wailing away on the balls. I've been more conscious about stretching and working out and keep my body in good shape."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our players tried to really take care of this guy, and he wanted no part of it. That was one of the reasons he didn't make our football team." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan on Maurice Clarett.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

--Defensive linemen Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren will likely each miss the entire preseason with injuries. Brown had arthroscopic surgery on his knee and Warren dislocated his left big toe. The good news is that will give some other players more time in the preseason. The Broncos have to figure out which of their backup linemen will produce if they are part of a rotation.

--DE Kenard Lang has been with the starting defense in place of injured Courtney Brown. Lang had a good game against Detroit and was a good free-agent pickup for the Broncos this off-season.

--P Todd Sauerbrun won't play much in the preseason. He will be out the first four games of the season because of a NFL suspension. The Broncos know what he can do so they'll give Paul Ernster a bulk of the playing time.

--WR Brian Clark had a solid game returning kickoffs against Detroit. Clark, an undrafted rookie, is fast but raw, but special teams could be his best shot of making the team.

--RB Cedric Cobbs had been demoted to fourth on the depth chart, but his chances of making the team look better after he led Denver in rushing against Detroit. The Broncos talked up Cobbs in the off-season but rookie Mike Bell passed him early in camp.

--WR David Terrell returned a punt against Detroit. One of the reasons Terrell played in only one game last year was he didn't play special teams. Terrell still has to make up some ground to make the roster.

INJURY REPORT:
--DT Gerard Warren has a dislocated toe. He should return for the season opener.

--DE Courtney Brown had arthroscopic knee surgery to clean out some cartilage. The Broncos are optimistic he'll be back for the start of the regular season.

--WR Brandon Marshall has a knee injury and could miss a couple weeks.

--WR Rod Smith has been bothered by a hamstring injury but the Broncos don't think it is serious.



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