Players back Bates

Embattled Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jim Bates is not thinking about what has happened in the first 12 weeks or what will happen after the season.

"We've got four games left, and this is the most important one and that's what we're working at right now, is getting ready for this game," Bates said.

What has happened thus far isn't comforting. The Broncos rank 27th in the NFL in total defense and 31st in points allowed, well short of what Denver expected in Bates' first year.

Along the way, the Broncos have tweaked the defensive scheme, bringing an eighth player in the box and getting away from the mammoth defensive tackles Bates usually prefers. Tackle Sam Adams was cut this week after being a starter all season.

The players have defended Bates.

"The man can coach football, I've seen enough coaches to know if someone can," safety John Lynch said. "Coaches got to give you a chance, and then you have to go get it done. I think the culpability really lies with the players."

Bates himself avoided looking at the big picture.

"We'll talk about that at the end of the year," Bates said. "Anytime you're not successful it's always difficult."


--WR Brandon Stokley didn't practice for the second straight day. He has a knee injury. The Broncos will see if he can practice Friday, then hopefully have a better idea on his availability for Sunday's game.

--WR Javon Walker was limited in practice Thursday, a day after he had a full practice Wednesday. Walker is still sore after dealing with a knee injury. If Brandon Stokley can't go, Walker would be in line for more playing time if he's healthy.

--RB Travis Henry practiced for the second straight day and he will be ready to play Sunday. He probably will split time with Selvin Young.

--S Nick Ferguson is closer to doubtful than questionable for this week, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. However, Ferguson's injured knee felt better Thursday, which is why the Broncos didn't rule him out.

--WR Glenn Martinez missed last week's game with a sprained ankle, but has practiced all week and should be able to play. He could see a lot of playing time on offense, based on the health of Brandon Stokley and Javon Walker, and he will return punts.

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