The Other Side

The San Diego Chargers may be meeting the Denver Broncos while they are ripe. Unfortunately, they still have talent at key positions and Jake Plummer returns. He was dominant early on and headed for a career year, but will he return rusty in his return?

Injuries have taken their toll on the Broncos in recent weeks, but now the team has to see if it can overcome another major hurdle -- the substance-abuse suspension of starting fullback Mike Anderson.

The Broncos have a solid replacement in Reuben Droughns, even if he's about 25 pounds lighter. But it remains to be seen if the negative publicity takes a toll on the players, who already were reeling after losing three straight games going into the bye.

He put himself in a tough situation. Once you get to a position in which you could be suspended, it is not your first offense. I am not going to go into all of the details, but I know Mike is disappointed that he was in that position. All I can say is that if Mike were applying for a job at any organization, including yours, and he took a (drug) test, it would have come back negative. Now, is that fair?"

"Reuben (Droughns) is at fullback and we go in a different direction," said Denver Coach Mike Shanahan. "It is just like somebody that sprained his ankle on the first play or somebody twisted his knee and is out for four games."

"I know that Mike is going through a very troubling time, but I think Reuben (Droughns) is going to be able to step up and do a great job," said Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe That is why he is here."

Clinton Portis offered up some not so glowing praise for Droughns:

"I have got to have confidence in Reuben (Droughns). I think that Reuben played a lot and I'm comfortable with running behind him and I know he is going to give me all that he has got. He might not be hitting the right person but he is going to be giving me all that he has got. I just have to follow him so if he (Droughns) runs the wrong way then I am going to run the wrong way."

Bigger than the loss of Anderson, though, is the return of quarterback Jake Plummer, who gives the team an instant spark and an added dimension.

"We know if Jake's playing well, good things normally happen," tight end Shannon Sharpe said. "He was playing as well as he could before he went down. We know there's going to be some rust or a missed read here or there, but we just hope we can get this thing back on track before it's too late. Jake gives us that best opportunity to do that."

Without him, Denver went 1-3, and struggled in both the running game and passing game.

Though his left foot, which he broke a month ago, is still tender, look for him to play the way he always plays -- full-tilt.

"It is still early. There are a few things—when running around—I feel when I am at practice, but during the games the adrenaline is pumping. I am not going to be running away from Marcellus Wiley worrying about my foot. I am going to be running away from him worrying about him smashing the rest of my body. When the game comes and the time to react is there, I won't be thinking about any of that stuff. I won't be thinking about my foot. It is getting better everyday. It feels better than it did on Monday. We just have to keep going along with that and get ready for Sunday," he said.

"My shoulder is still a little tender. It still takes a little warm up time, but once it gets warmed up I feel like I can make every throw that I was making earlier in the year. I did a lot of strengthening on that. Also, (Steve Antonopulos) had me working my foot and shoulder almost everyday. It is not something I am worried about either. I can't control how I fall. If I get hit and I land on it, we'll see what happens. I'd like to think that the strengthening I did will help me absorb the blow. I am not going to worry about that stuff, I am going to worry San Diego and getting this one win we need right now."

"We are excited to have him back," Sharpe said. "But I can tell you this; if we played the way we played for the last three games it doesn't matter who we have at quarterback because we aren't going to win. We have to play better as a unit. We just need to play better. Certainly, Jake gives us an advantage and that advantage is one that the other guys we had in there couldn't provide. We know we have to play better in order to get this offense where it needs to be headed."

Last time the two teams met, the Broncos offense looked to be firing on all cylinders. The Bolts hope they are not meeting that team.

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