ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The chances are growing that the struggling Oakland Raiders' defense could have the daunting task of playing against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday without starting linebackers Sio Moore and Nick Roach.

Moore
Moore has an ankle injury he suffered against Houston and Roach has been out with a concussion suffered against Green Bay on Aug. 22. Moore hasn’t practiced this week and Roach has been limited, but not cleared, for full contact, and coach Dennis Allen didn’t sound overly optimistic that would change. There is no clear answer to when Roach -- who played every defensive snap for Oakland last season -- will return.

“That’s something that we continue to look at and see if this is going to get better,” Allen said. “Obviously, number one, any time you have a concussion there’s a concern, and then obviously with the length of time that it’s taken, there’s even a little bit more concern. He seems to continue to get a little bit better every day, and so hopefully he’ll keep getting better.”

The Raiders have clearly missed Roach, as they've given up a league-high 400 rushing yards in the first two games, and would miss Moore, who's been one of Oakland's most active defenders. Miles Burris has been playing for Roach but could move outside for Moore, with Kaluka Maiava playing in the middle in that scenario.

"Well, we’ve got a couple of linebackers that we can use,” Allen said. “So we’ll take the healthy bodies that we have and we’ll have a lineup and put them out there.

Because of the injuries, Oakland is likely to add a linebacker to the active roster Sunday. A likely candidate to be moved up is rookie Bojay Filimoeatu, who was promoted from the practice squad last week, then released, then put back on the practice squad this week.

They made room by cutting rookie defensive lineman Shelby Harris. Harris was a seventh-round pick and is the first draft pick to get cut this season. The Raiders hope to put him back on the practice squad. The Raiders also cut Kaelin Burnett from the injured reserve.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – In the written record that is the play-by-play from Super Bowl XLVIII, it’s listed simply as; “P.Manning pass short middle to D. Thomas to DEN 40 for 2 yards (K. Chancellor)."

But for many, including Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor and linebacker Bobby Wagner, Chancellor’s hit on Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas just over five minutes into the title game set the tone for what was to come. Wagner went as far, in an offseason TV appearance, to say the Broncos wide receivers were intimidated after the hit.

[+] EnlargeDemaryius Thomas and Kam Chancellor
AP Photo/Bill KostrounDenver receiver Demaryius Thomas took a hard hit from Seattle's Kam Chancellor early in Super Bowl XLVIII.
At the time, Wagner said: “That first hit [Chancellor] came across the middle and smacked him … they were very timid."

With the rematch of the Broncos 43-8 loss in the title game set for Sunday in Seattle, Thomas offered some thoughts all these months later. Asked if the hit had the impact on him, as well as the other Broncos, that many have said it did, Thomas said:

“Nah, it’s just a hit. You play football, you’re gonna get hit. It didn’t bother me; I got up and kept playing."

Asked if it was the game’s turning point, Thomas added:

“I think about it, and now that the game is over, I laugh about getting hit. It doesn’t bother me. They came out that day and played better football than us and all I can say is give them their props and try to come back Sunday and try to do better."

Thomas suffered a shoulder injury on the play and, after a trip to the sideline, returned to finish with 13 receptions for 118 yards and the Broncos' only touchdown on a day that was largely a struggle for the Broncos' offense. In general, Thomas, who has had back-to-back 1,300-yard, 10-touchdown seasons to go with two Pro Bowl trips, had high praise for the Seahawks secondary. He called cornerback Richard Sherman “one of the best … I think he’s one of the smarter guys in the game."

And on the Seahawks safeties, Thomas said “Kam Chancellor, big hitter, Earl [Thomas] is all over the field, very good at what they do"

On the Seahawks defense, Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase put Seattle’s group among some fast company.

“You’re talking about three teams in the history of football – the ’85 Bears, the 2000 Ravens and these guys, that’s where these guys rank in defensive football," Gase said following Thursday's practice. “These guys are one of the best teams to ever play and they are trying to show it again this year."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As they approach a Super Bowl rematch in Seattle that isn’t really a second chance at a Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos find themselves trying to find the right balance between past and present.

Between remembering the sting and embarrassment of a 35-point loss on the league’s biggest stage, and simply moving on to try to create another opportunity to make it right.

“Yeah, you don’t forget what happened and also, you set the standard by playing against the Super Bowl (winners)," said Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. “They’ve earned the right to talk how they talk and we’ll just speak with our pads and show up on Sunday. Obviously we still have a bad taste in our mouths from the Super Bowl, but it’s a new season and we want to get back to that point and obviously win it. But playing against the team that won the Super Bowl and actually having a chance at a rematch really will show how far we came as a team and if we improved or not."

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
AP Photo/Ben Liebenberg"I think naturally you're motivated anytime you play a team that beat you last year," Peyton Manning said. "But being motivated, or being mad doesn't mean anything if you don't go out there and execute and do your job."
Sunday will be the Broncos’ first regular-season trip to Seattle, a former division foe from 1978-2001. Everybody knows the numbers: The Seahawks have gone 18-1 in their last 19 regular-season home games and the last time these two teams met in a game that counted, the Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII by 35 points.

And in the social media world, a team that loses the Super Bowl by 35 points somehow doesn’t finish second. Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway has said “people don’t see you as a team that was a runner-up because of what happened."

The Broncos have lived with being called soft, intimidated and unable to play to the moment in the title game. That’s all fodder to wind a team up.

Asked if he had ever been more excited to play in a regular-season game, Knighton said; “No. No I haven’t been this excited … Saturday, when we get on that plane, a lot of guys’ adrenaline will start boosting. It’ll be a hostile environment and that’s just the way we like it -- with our back against the walls."

But it’s also, for both the Broncos Seahawks, Week 3 of a season with plenty of miles to go before another shot at the postseason. In that vein Broncos head coach John Fox has tried to emphasize, at least publicly, Sunday’s game is indeed the kind of stage any Super Bowl hopeful would want to be on, but not the end-all, be-all of the new season.

Quarterback Peyton Manning even took a far simpler approach.

“Yeah, I think naturally you’re motivated anytime you play a team that beat you last year,’’ Manning said. “But being motivated, or being mad doesn’t mean anything if you don’t go out there and execute and do your job … so I still think you have to try to simplify it in some ways and try to find a way to protect the ball, score some touchdowns in the red zone and stay out of a lot of third-and-longs. I think if you don’t do those things, it’s tough to be a good football team."

So, whatever errors the Broncos made this past February, the opportunity that was lost, it's all a part of history’s stew. Almost half of the players currently on the Broncos' roster weren't with the team in MetLife Stadium, and the team will likely start at least seven players on defense Sunday who didn’t even play in the Super Bowl, so how it all turns out this time around will depend on how the current Broncos seize the day.

“I think we’ve got to caution ourselves from trying to make this a revenge for the Super Bowl game,’’ said tight end Julius Thomas. “This is the 2014 season, but we’re still playing a very tough opponent -- probably what a lot of people consider one of the better teams in this league. When you’re going up against a playoff team three weeks in a row, you’ve got to keep on making a statement to everybody else in the league about what type of team we’re going to be this year."

“You’ve got to stay in your (playbook) and just work on your fundamentals and get better each week and watch your opponent as much as possible without getting riled up and feeding into all the talk -- you know, the bulletin board stuff, all the quotes they got,’’ Knighton said. “But we just keep it simple."
Good morning.

Robert Mays of Grantland examines the San Diego Chargers’ ball control offense, and how Philip Rivers moved the ball so effectively against one of the best defenses in the NFL.

Mays: “San Diego built the second-best offense in football last year by staying on schedule. Only five teams ran the ball on a higher percentage of first-down plays than the Chargers, who did it 54.2 percent of the time. Ryan Mathews led the league in first-down rushes with 175, averaging 4.15 yards in the start of a process that helped build the offense into a study of efficiency.”

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter Mike Rodak says safety Da'Norris Searcy could be the key to containing Antonio Gates in this video.

According to Nate Silver of Fivethrirtyeight.com the Chargers have a 59 percent chance of making the playoffs.

In this ESPN Insider piece, ESPN NFL handicapper Dave Tuley ranks the Chargers No. 8 in his Vegas NFL power rankings.

Will Brinson of CBS Sports writes that the Chargers’ Super Bowl odds have moved from 40-1 to 20-1.

Ricky Henne of Chargers.com says that rookie running back Branden Oliver is ready if needed.

Jordan Beane of Chargers.com talks with Danny Woodhead about his expanded role in this video.

Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego writes the Chargers’ improved depth has shown up early this season.

Tom Krasovic of U-T San Diego says the Chargers have improved their speed on defense through two games.

Michael Burland of Pro Football Focus reviews San Diego’s options at running back with Ryan Mathews out.

Chargers vs. Bills preview

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
8:00
AM ET
video
Few teams in the NFL are as hot as the Buffalo Bills and San Diego Chargers, who will meet Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The Bills are off to a surprising 2-0 start and sit alone atop the AFC East. They've turned the ball over just once and have limited opposing offenses to less than 16 points per game. Add in strong special-teams contributions -- Buffalo players won AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors after both games this season -- and the Bills have found a recipe for winning.

Meanwhile, the Chargers (1-1) are hanging tough in the AFC West. With their 30-21 victory last week, they became one of just four teams to take down the Seattle Seahawks since the start of last season. Quarterback Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates are still the centerpiece of a dangerous offensive attack.

ESPN Bills reporter Mike Rodak and ESPN Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams preview the game:

Rodak: The Chargers seem to be riding high after knocking off the defending Super Bowl champions. What was the key to their victory and how do you see their performance carrying forward?

Williams:Ccoach Mike McCoy devised an excellent game plan for defeating Seattle. Rivers used the short passing game to control the tempo, and in the red zone, the Chargers got one-on-one matchups with Gates against linebackers or strong safety Kam Chancellor. And for the most part, Gates won. Defensively, the Chargers did a nice job of swarm-tackling Marshawn Lynch and Percy Harvin in the run game, and they forced Russell Wilson to make plays from inside the pocket. Lastly, San Diego won the turnover battle. It’s a good recipe for winning games on a weekly basis in the NFL, but in order to win on the road, the Chargers will need to run the ball more consistently.

The Bills are 2-0 at the start of the season for the first time since 2011. Can this team break the NFL’s longest playoff drought by making the postseason for the first time since 1999?

Rodak: They have the potential to do it. The Bills might have the AFC East's most talented roster. There are 12 first-round picks and five second-round picks, part of an overall mixture of homegrown talent and pieces added from the outside. The Bills have arguably the NFL's best defensive line -- three players went to the Pro Bowl last season -- and a strong group of offensive weapons surrounding EJ Manuel.

The question has always been about the quarterback, and through two weeks, I'm not sure the concerns about Manuel have been alleviated. The Bills have limited Manuel's pass attempts; he has 48 through two games, the second-fewest in the NFL. They're also 29th in red zone touchdown efficiency, a problem that has been masked by strong defense and special-teams play. The Bills have proven they can win games with that approach, but I still think we'll need to see more out of Manuel before the Bills are considered a strong playoff contender.

The Chargers have no shortage of weapons on offense, yet they often don't get the same attention as some of the NFL's better offenses. Where would you place Rivers among his peers at quarterback and how would you rate his receivers?

Williams: Rivers is a top-five quarterback in the NFL, in my opinion. He is accurate, smart and still possesses plenty of zip in his arm to make every throw on the field. And at 32 years old, he's in his prime. Last season, Rivers led the league in completion percentage (69.5 percent) and finished fourth in passing touchdowns (32) and passer rating (105.5). However, he does not get as much attention as some of the other elite quarterbacks because he doesn't have a Super Bowl ring, and that's how we judge the best quarterbacks in the game.

I also believe San Diego has an above-average group of receivers, led by Keenan Allen, and perhaps the best tight end tandem in the NFL in Gates and Ladarius Green. Add Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown at running back, and Rivers has plenty of playmakers at his disposal to take advantage of specific matchups each week.

Manuel struggled during exhibition play but has been a steady performer during the first two games of the regular season. Manuel has completed 67 percent of his passes, has been sacked only once and has a 95.4 passer rating in helping lead the Bills to two victories. What has been the difference?

Rodak: There is a marked difference at wide receiver that has helped boost Manuel's play this season. Last season, Manuel and top wideout Stevie Johnson never seemed to be on the same page, plus Johnson had some lingering injury problems. Second-round pick Robert Woods was a rookie and third receiver T.J. Graham had a limited skill set that didn't do Manuel many favors. Manuel's leading receiver was tight end Scott Chandler (53 catches, 655 yards), but Chandler has just two catches in two games this season.

Instead, Manuel has fired away at top pick Sammy Watkins. Watkins has 15 targets, the most on the team. In addition, Woods came up with a pair of impressive catches in Week 1 that bailed out Manuel on some less-than-accurate throws. Manuel certainly deserves credit for better decision-making in his second season, but the Bills wanted to improve his group of receivers, and the difference has been noticeable.

The Chargers' defense ranks 30th in yards allowed per play (6.58) and opponent yards per rush (5.56) but has allowed only 19.5 points per game, which is 12th-best in the NFL. Is run defense a problem for San Diego and if so, how have they covered it up?

Williams: The Chargers struggled against the run last season but did a better job against a pretty good running offense (Seattle) Sunday. The key for San Diego's defense is actually how much the offense controls tempo. The Chargers are No. 2 on offense in the NFL in time of possession (35:13), so the defense isn't on the field for long periods of time. San Diego also forced three turnovers in two games -- along with a blocked punt -- and only has one turnover on offense. So the Chargers do a good job of stealing a few possessions each game. Those things help hide other deficiencies San Diego has on defense.

Watkins had a breakout performance against Miami, finishing with eight catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. We know that Buffalo leans on the run game with C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Anthony Dixon, but how has Watkins added another dimension to the offense?

Rodak: We didn't see too much of Watkins in the season opener; he had three catches in the first half and Manuel overthrew Watkins on his only target in the second half. Things changed in Week 2. He brings a clear advantage over most other receivers: Watkins has speed that allows him to be a deep threat, sure hands and a large catch radius that allows him to haul in off-target passes, and some shiftiness that makes him dangerous after the catch. The Bills had speed at receiver last season but lacked the route-running and pass-catching ability that Watkins brings to the table.
video
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The San Diego Chargers used a former college basketball player turned tight end, Antonio Gates, to score three touchdowns on the Seattle Seahawks defense this past weekend.

So, as the Denver Broncos prepare for the Super Bowl rematch Sunday in Seattle, perhaps it would stand to reason their former college basketball player turned tight end -- Julius Thomas, who is tied for the league lead in touchdown receptions with four -- should be a big part of the plan.

[+] EnlargeJulius Thomas
Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesBroncos tight end Julius Thomas leads the league in touchdown receptions with four.
"You can't really look at the game like that," Thomas said following Wednesday's practice. "Just because Gates had three touchdowns [Sunday] doesn't mean that I'm going to be able to go out there and have three touchdowns."

But it is something to consider as the Broncos work to try to make Sunday's visit to Seattle a little better than their last game that counted against the Seahawks -- the 35-point loss in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Is Denver taking anything from how the Chargers, who happen to be coached by Mike McCoy, a former Broncos offensive coordinator, attacked the Seahawks defense in San Diego's 30-21 victory in Qualcomm Stadium? If they are, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is taking a loose-lips-sink-game plans approach.

"I can't really speak to the San Diego game plan, the Green Bay game plan [in Week 1 against the Seahawks], and I can't speak to our game plan," Manning said.

But beyond Gates' seven-catch day to go with 96 yards and three touchdowns, the Chargers did do some things on offense worth noting.

First, they played with patience and efficiency. Gates' 21-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter was San Diego's longest pass play of the game. No other receiver had a reception of more than 16 yards in the game against the Seahawks' zone looks.

The Chargers worked short and intermediate routes with Gates' seven catches to go with nine receptions combined for the Chargers running backs. The Chargers also held on to the ball and did not have a turnover.

They had two field-goal drives go for 10 and 14 plays, respectively, in the first half. And, two of their three touchdown drives went for 75 and 80 yards.

What that means for Thomas and the Broncos remains to be seen. In the first two weeks of the season, Thomas has been the matchup that has created the biggest problem for opposing defenses.

Some of that is Thomas' continued growth as a player, as well as the Broncos' desire to be a little more physical. But it also was likely because of Wes Welker's suspension for a violation of the league's drug policy and the fact rookie receiver Cody Latimer, a physical, athletic player the Broncos continue to rave about in practice, is not quite ready to work in the audible-heavy offense.

So the Broncos, who were primarily a three-wide receiver offense last season on the way to a record 606 points, have played far more out of a two-tight end set this season. In Sunday's win over the Chiefs, they were in that look for all but one snap -- usually with Thomas paired with Jacob Tamme, who often plays like a bigger slot receiver.

"There may be some things that we saw on tape that we may try to do with me, but ultimately you've got to go out there and play your own game,” Thomas said. "The Chargers were able to go out there and have some success last week, and we're going to find our own success. If that's with me being able to have a good game then I have no problem with that. But whatever it takes for us to get the W.”

With Welker being reinstated Wednesday, how the Broncos proceed is still a question they won't reveal the answer to until Sunday's game. Still, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday he knows facing Gates and Thomas in back-to-back weeks is a challenge.

"We've got some great power forwards that are playing tight end and can do everything," Carroll said. "Tony Gonzalez was a tremendous mold for that … We saw a great one last weekend that gave us all kinds of problems, just like [the Broncos] have so we know it can be a big factor particularly when they're hooked up and have great chemistry with the quarterback."
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Ask yourself this on Sunday as you watch Branden Albert play for the Miami Dolphins and protect the blind side of quarterback Ryan Tannehill in their game against Kansas City: How much better would the Chiefs be if Albert was still their left tackle?

Albert
Albert
While having Albert available to block wouldn't solve all of their problems, the Chiefs' chaotic offensive line situation would immediately stabilize. That alone would be enough to make them better.

If that thought doesn't hurt enough, torture yourself with this fact. Pro Football Focus has Albert rated their No. 1 performing offensive tackle through two games. His replacement for the Chiefs, Eric Fisher, is rated 63rd among 66 tackles.

It's too late to wish Albert back into a Chiefs uniform. Albert left as a free agent in March and the Chiefs have to live with their decision to draft Fisher No. 1 overall last year and make him their long-term left tackle instead of Albert.

That choice as time passes is looking more and more like a bad one. Fisher hasn't played anything like the No. 1 overall pick and, at times since joining the Chiefs, has been so bad he deserved a spot on the bench.

The Chiefs never seriously considered giving Albert the long-term contract he wanted because they didn't see him as a premier offensive lineman.

"Some people (thought) I was getting older," Albert said Wednesday regarding his departure from the Chiefs. "Some people didn't think I was as good as I think I am. It's my job to prove everybody wrong and I think I'm doing a good job at it. I have no (argument) with anybody. People have their opinions."

The Chiefs' opinion now looks like the wrong one. Instead of Albert protecting quarterback Alex Smith, he will repeat his old practice field battles with Tamba Hali and try to keep him away from Tannehill.

"Me and Tamba have had some classic battles in practice," Albert said. "This one counts."
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- When the shock of being released by the San Diego Chargers wore off, it didn't take Vincent Brown long to identify the team he wanted to sign with.

Brown
Brown
"Yeah, this is where I was looking," a smiling Brown said after his first practice with the Raiders on Wednesday. "It worked out well."

Once he became healthy (the Chargers cut the oft-injured Brown, who was dealing with a minor calf injury), the Raiders were the first team he set up a workout. Brown said he had workouts scheduled with Kansas City and the New York Jets. However, the Raiders didn't let him leave the building after a productive workout Monday.

The situation is perfect for Brown. He gets to stay in his native California. He gets to face the Chargers twice this season. And, he gets to please his father -- Vincent Brown Sr. is a die-hard Raiders' fan.

"He had to be a Raiders' fan on the down-low the last three years," his son said laughing. "I don't know how many pictures I have of me as a little kid wearing Raiders gear … I talked to my dad last night. He is ecstatic."

If the Raiders think Brown knows the system, there is a chance he will be in the rotation Sunday at New England.

"He catches the ball really well and he's got some vertical threat down the field," coach Dennis Allen said. "I think probably the biggest thing when you watch the guy is, when the ball goes in his direction, he generally makes the catch."
SAN DIEGO -- Exposed?

San Diego Chargers players I spoke with appeared unfamiliar with the term in reference to the team's performance against Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.

According to a report from U-T San Diego, multiple Chargers used that word to describe the vociferous cornerback's play over the weekend.

Sherman
Chargers second-year receiver Keenan Allen publicly expressed the strongest sentiment on Sherman.

"He's just a normal guy," Allen said. "We can go at him. We are not going to shy away from him. He's not really a shutdown corner."

The Chargers completed five passes for 60 yards against Sherman a week after Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers failed to throw a pass to his side in the opener for both teams.

Sherman left the locker room after the game without talking to reporters, but responded in a conversation with reporters in Seattle on Wednesday.

"I played pretty well," Sherman said. "But it's really funny that two little Chargers say I was exposed. One had 50 yards [Allen had five receptions for 55 yards], and one had 60 [Eddie Royal had seven receptions for 69 yards]. It makes you laugh."

Before Sherman's comments were known on Wednesday, receivers in San Diego's locker room spoke glowingly about the most vocal member of the Legion of Boom.

"Richard's a great player," Royal said. "I don't think the game changed my opinion about him. It made me have that much more respect for him, and the way he competes. He's a physical player. He's a smart player, and I think he's as good as advertised.

"He's one of the best in the game, and there's no question about that in anybody's mind."

Added receiver Malcom Floyd: "I wouldn't say he was exposed. I don't know if that's the correct word to use. I just think we did better than the few teams that have played him, and made some plays on him. I think he's one of the best corners in the league. So I wouldn't say he's been exposed."

Safety Eric Weddle echoed similar comments about Sherman on the Jim Rome Show.

"He's going to be targeted every time you go out there -- we all know that," Weddle said. "He knows that. We got a couple catches on him, but like he said, he didn't give up any touchdowns or big plays -- maybe a couple of third downs. But you're going to have to do a lot more than that to be exposed."

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said heading into the contest that he wouldn't shy away from Sherman, and that was the case over the weekend. However, San Diego's veteran quarterback said he's ready to focus on his team's next opponent, the Buffalo Bills.

"We've moved on from that," Rivers said. "Keenan was great. And like I told y'all going in, I thought No. 41 (Byron Maxwell) on the other side was a heck of a corner also."
SAN DIEGO – Coach Mike McCoy said his team has moved on from basking in the afterglow of a big victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

According to McCoy, the San Diego Chargers are focused on the team’s next opponent, the Buffalo Bills.

“We played our style of football,” McCoy said about his team’s win over Seattle. “We won the time of possession, did a nice job and won the plays when we had to. It doesn’t matter when you play it; you have to go out there and play your best game. The big test now is to improve from last week.”

As they began preparation for the Bills, six San Diego players did not practice Wednesday: cornerback Brandon Flowers (groin), tight end Antonio Gates (hamstring), running back Ryan Mathews (knee) and outside linebackers Dwight Freeney (not injury related), Jeremiah Attaochu (hamstring) and Melvin Ingram (hamstring).

Out since the second preseason game at Seattle on Aug. 15, safety Jahleel Addae (hamstring) returned to practice on a limited basis. Offensive linemen Johnnie Troutman (back) and Rich Ohnrberger (back) also were limited participants.

Cornerback Chris Davis (ankle) and defensive lineman Corey Liuget (ankle) were full participants.

Mathews is out for an extended period of time with an MCL strain in his right knee. Flowers also could miss a second straight game with a lingering groin injury. If Flowers can’t play, rookie Jason Verrett would make his second career start. Freeney took a veteran rest day.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Before Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker was suspended earlier this month, most of the discussion surrounding the 11th-year veteran was about his health.

About the fact that, after a concussion in the Broncos’ Aug. 23 preseason game against the Houston Texans, Welker had suffered three concussions in a 10-month span. Welker has returned to the Broncos after being reinstated in the wake of the NFL and NFL Players Association finishing negotiations on a new drug policy that has been enacted immediately.

Welker
Welker took part in the Broncos’ practice Wednesday, his first on-field work since limited participation on Labor Day. Welker said Wednesday he had been cleared medically “about a week or so ago."

He was asked following practice if he understood why people were concerned about his well-being and why some have questioned publicly whether he should return to the field.

“I appreciate their concern, I do," Welker said. “But at the same time, I feel great. I feel sharp and ready to go."

Welker was held out of the final three games of the regular season in 2013 after he suffered a concussion in a Nov. 17 game against the Kansas City Chiefs and another in a Dec. 8 game against the Tennessee Titans.

He returned to play in all three of the Broncos' postseason games, including Super Bowl XLVIII. Wednesday marked the first time -- the Broncos had a fully padded practice -- Welker had been a full participant in practice since the days before the Aug. 23 concussion.

After Welker’s suspension was announced, Broncos head coach John Fox said the time away, from a health perspective, might be a “blessing in disguise" for Welker.

“Maybe a little bit, you always hate to miss any time at all," Welker said. “But especially with head injuries and different things like that, every week and every day is a good thing for it. Not the way I wanted it to happen, but it is what it is."

Under the guidelines of the league’s concussion protocol to return to play, Welker had to be cleared by an independent physician, designated by both the NFL and NFL Players Association.

Smith at bottom of NFL passer rating

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
4:05
PM ET
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This week's NFL statistics show Alex Smith to be 35th and last in passer rating among quarterbacks who have made enough passes to qualify. One spot ahead of him, by the way, is his predecessor as the Kansas City Chiefs' full-time quarterback, the Minnesota Vikings' Matt Cassel.

Smith
Smith earned that dubious honor with a rotten season-opening game against the Tennessee Titans. Three interceptions, two of which were on Smith, will kill a quarterback's rating.

Though Smith's stats last week against the Denver Broncos weren't tremendous (26-of-42, 255 yards, no touchdowns), I'll submit he played well enough to keep the Chiefs alive in that game and, yes, well enough to win.

The Chiefs didn't win because rookie kicker Cairo Santos missed a field-goal attempt and the team couldn't score a touchdown on its final drive.

Neither is Smith's fault. He was perhaps a bit too hasty with his fourth-down pass on that final drive but otherwise the culprit there was the play-calling. The Chiefs ran the ball twice on four plays starting at the Denver 9, and Smith's throw to Dwayne Bowe on fourth down was the only shot the Chiefs took into the end zone.

The Chiefs need that kind of game from Smith more often, especially after giving him a recent contract extension that includes $68 million in new money. Giving big money to a quarterback doesn't guarantee a great passer rating. Among those quarterbacks accompanying Smith near the bottom of the passer rankings include highly paid players like Eli Manning and Tom Brady.

Manning and Brady have each won a pair of Super Bowls. I'll permit them a slow start to the season, if that's all this is.

Not so with Smith. The Chiefs have a lineup depleted with injuries and they need Smith to provide an immediate return on their investment.

Their season may depend on it. They have a winnable game Sunday against the Dolphins in Miami, but they won't make it happen with a bottom-of-the–passer-rating type game from Smith.

Danny Trevathan moving toward return

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
2:55
PM ET
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- His return to the practice field was overshadowed plenty by wide receiver Wes Welker’s presence in practice as well, but linebacker Danny Trevathan’s ability to do at least some work with the team’s strength and conditioning coaches was good news for the Broncos and an indication that one of the team's most productive players is closing in on a return.

Trevathan, who was the team’s leading tackler last season and an every-down player in Jack Del Rio’s scheme, suffered a fracture at the top of his tibia on Aug. 12. Though he did not take part in the Broncos' practice Wednesday -- he stretched with the team -- Trevathan’s work was his first appearance on the field in a practice jersey since the injury.

Trevathan said last week, "I’m getting there, I’ll be ready to get back in there soon."

Trevathan is five weeks out from the injury. The Broncos have been optimistic throughout Trevathan’s recovery that he would need six to eight weeks before a return to the lineup.

The Broncos face Seattle this weekend, but then have a Week 4 bye, so Trevathan, if he continues at his current pace, may be available for the Broncos’ Week 5 game against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Broncos will likely practice at least twice during their bye week.

Linebacker Von Miller, who left the Broncos' win over the Kansas City Chiefs this past Sunday with a groin injury, practiced Wednesday.

Linebacker Lerentee McCray (knee) and defensive tackle Marvin Austin (excused) did not practice. Austin’s father, Marvin Sr., was involved in an automobile accident Sunday.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's no surprise since they left last week's game in Denver in the first half and never returned, but running back Jamaal Charles and safety Eric Berry will not practice for the Kansas City Chiefs Wednesday.

Berry
Charles
Charles has a high ankle sprain, Berry a sprained ankle.

But De'Anthony Thomas is scheduled to practice and play in Sunday's game against the Dolphins in Miami. Thomas missed the season's first two games because of a strained hamstring.

"I've been waiting for this moment my whole life to play in my first NFL game," said Thomas, a rookie running back and receiver who was drafted in the fourth round. "It's my time to make plays and contribute to this offense."

The likely loss of Charles would be partially offset by the return of Thomas, who is world-class fast. The Chiefs lined him up in a variety of places during training camp in search of the proper matchups.

Thomas is also the Chiefs' top punt returner. He brought one back 80 yards for a touchdown in a preseason game against Cincinnati.

"Another weapon, another playmaker," quarterback Alex Smith said. "The more of those you present to a defense, the harder you are to defend."

Gates named AFC Player of the Week

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
10:45
AM ET
Gates
SAN DIEGO – For the first time in his 12-year NFL career, San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates was honored as the AFC Player of the Week.

Gates, 34, earned the award for his impressive performance in his team’s 30-21 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Gates finished with seven receptions for 96 yards, tying a career-high for touchdowns with three.

Gates now has 90 career touchdown catches, passing Don Maynard (88), Larry Fitzgerald (87), Andre Reed (87) to move up to No. 11 on the all-time list. Gates is second among all tight ends behind Tony Gonzalez (111).

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider