Broncos' quarterback situation hitting rock-bottom

OWINGS MILLS - The Denver Broncos' calamitous quarterback situation literally just took a turn toward the commode. Danny Kanell, the third-stringer promoted to the starting lineup in the wake of injuries to Jake Plummer and Steve Beuerlein, was vomiting and experiencing other flu symptoms Friday. Kanell missed practice and was given intravenous fluids, according to Broncos spokesman Paul Kirk.

Although Kanell is still listed as probable, indicating a 75-percent chance of availability for Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said it's far from definite that Kanell will start given his current state.

"We'll see how he is in a couple of days," Shanahan told reporters in Denver. "He's a little bit dehydrated. We'll just wait and see. I can't really tell you anything."

Kirk said that Jarious Jackson took all the snaps Friday and would start if Kanell is unable to play. Jackson was re-signed this week after being cut two months ago.

The former Notre Dame starter has only played in four NFL games in three seasons, completing 7 of 13 passes for 73 yards. The Broncos' final option at quarterback after Jackson is top receiver Rod Smith, the designated emergency quarterback.

The receiver position is already dangerously thin for Denver.

Ed McCaffrey (knee) and Chris Cole (ankle) were held out of the last two days of practice. Cole is listed as questionable and McCaffrey has been downgraded to doubtful. Shanahan listed 16 players on his injury report.

Meanwhile, Ravens coach Brian Billick announced that injury-prone nickel back Tom Knight will miss this game with a groin injury.

Free safety Gary Baxter will likely shift over to cornerback in nickel situations with Will Demps entering the game at safety.

"It's disappointing, but it doesn't make sense to risk making it worse or hurting the team," Knight said. "I'm sure the other guys will do a good job and I'll be back next week."

Billick said rookie quarterback Kyle Boller practiced all week without aggravating his sprained left shoulder and took the majority of the repetitions.

"It's what a professional has to do," Billick said. "He knows he needs the reps. We were fortunate to get through the week without any aggravation of it, so we are in good shape."

LAST CHANCE?: Although Lamont Brightful hasn't been replaced by newcomer Dedric Ward yet, he's aware that time could be running out on his tenure as the Ravens' return specialist.

Ward is slated to return some punts on Sunday and the former Miami Dolphins and New York Jets specialist might also see action on kickoff returns, too.

"It's frustrating, but it's a business and there's nothing you can do except prove yourself again," said Brightful, whose punt return average has dipped to seven yards after tying Jermaine Lewis' franchise record with a 16.1 average as a rookie last year. "It's frustrating that I've had four returns over 15 yards called back this year, but there's nothing I can do about that. I'm handling it all right."

Brightful has one fumble this year on a punt, but recovered it. He's averaging 21.5 yards on four kickoff returns, which have primarily been handled by backup running back Chester Taylor. Ward averaged 10.6 yards per punt return last year for the Dolphins.

"I don't know exactly what the game plan is, but I'm going to be ready," Ward said. "I'm excited about it. You just have to be decisive, find a hole and hit it at full speed."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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