No joke, Beuerlein is the starter

Updated: October 15, 2003, 8:21 PM ET

DENVER -- Steve Beuerlein thought his teammates were pulling a practical joke on him when he reported for work Wednesday morning.

Turns out they weren't. With Jake Plummer sidelined about four weeks with a broken foot, Beuerlein assumes the starting quarterback job for the Denver Broncos.

"I walked in the door and some of the younger players said, `I hope you're ready to go," Beuerlein said. "I thought they were just joking. I didn't know what was going on. So I said, `All right. OK.' They said, `No, Jake hurt his foot. He's out for three weeks or whatever.'

"I said, `Get out of here. That's a cruel joke for a guy who might have a heart condition.' I went in the training room to check it out, thinking it was a big joke and they'd get a big laugh out of me. But it was the truth."

Beuerlein played Sunday against Pittsburgh because Plummer was out with a shoulder injury. This week, Beuerlein was prepared to turn the reins back over to Plummer.

"I have some aches and pains," Beuerlein said. "Had I known Jake was going to make me work this week, I would have gotten myself all pampered up the last couple of days and got some massages and got the kinks all worked out.

"Instead, all I did was chase kids around all day (Tuesday). I'm probably more beaten up (Wednesday) than (Tuesday)."

Beuerlein admitted he has had to turn the switch back on.

"I thought I had done my duty," he said. "To be honest, when the game was over, I knew Jake was going to be ready this week, and I kind of flicked off `play' mode. There's a difference in how you prepare as a starter and as a backup.

"After we won the game, I clicked it into cruise control for a few days and thought I'd be able to kick back and heal up a little bit. I come in (Wednesday) and find out that's not the case. So I've got to flip on that switch again and get ready to roll.'

Coach Mike Shanahan said he has "the utmost confidence in Steve Beuerlein," noting that if Plummer had not signed a free-agent contract with Denver last spring, Beuerlein would have been the starter.

Shanahan added there is no need to adjust the offense. "Steve knows our offense inside and out," the coach said, "and we'll go with the same game plan we would have had if Jake wasn't out."

Shanahan said it was unlikely the Broncos will sign another quarterback, going instead with Beuerlein and Danny Kanell, with wide receiver Rod Smith as an emergency quarterback.

"It's not like Jake is lost for the season," Shanahan said. "We'll try and get by with two quarterbacks and get Rod Smith ready."

Shanahan joked that "we will get (offensive coordinator) Gary Kubiak ready if things get real bad. Hopefully, we'll survive."

Kubiak was a quarterback for the Broncos from 1983 through the 1991 season.

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^NALEN SKIPS WORKOUT:@ Center Tom Nalen was held out of practice on Wednesday, but most of the other injured Broncos took part in the workout.

Nalen has a sprained ankle, and Shanahan said, "He could have practiced. We just thought it would be good for him to get a day's rest. He'll be ready to go (Thursday)."

Defensive tackle Daryl Gardener, who saw his first action of the season on Sunday after being sidelined first by a wrist injury and then by a bacterial infection, also practiced.

Safety Kenoy Kennedy, who has missed the last three games with a sprained left ankle, practiced, apparently with no ill effects.

"Kenoy has practiced the last couple of weeks," Shanahan said. "It seems like very week he has a little setback. It didn't look like he had any problem (Wednesday)."

Nick Ferguson has started all three games in Kennedy's absence.

Asked if Ferguson has played well enough to challenge for the starting job when Kennedy returns, Shanahan said, "We're going to get our best 11 players on the field. There's always competition."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index