Broncos sign Jarious Jackson to bolster depleted QB ranks

Updated: October 22, 2003, 7:10 PM ET

DENVER -- The Denver Broncos re-signed Jarious Jackson on Wednesday to back up Danny Kanell, the team's only healthy quarterback.

Jackson had been Denver's third quarterback the past three years, but was released just before the season after being beat out by Kanell. Jackson was ready to move on, but a rash of injuries left the Broncos in need of a quarterback.

"It's funny how things work," Jackson said. "I would never thought I would be back here, but lo and behold I am."

It was a complicated process.

Kanell was released a day after beating out Jackson when the Broncos decided to go with just two quarterbacks. He re-signed three weeks later after starter Jake Plummer injured his throwing shoulder.

Kanell was the third quarterback for three weeks, but moved up the No. 2 spot when Plummer broke his foot and couldn't play against Pittsburgh on Oct. 12. Backup Steve Beuerlein took over for Plummer, but now he's out for the season with a broken pinky finger.

That left the Broncos with Kanell, who hadn't played in nearly three years, and receiver Rod Smith as the only players who could play quarterback.

Needing a solid backup in case Kanell got hurt, the Broncos turned to Jackson. With his experience and knowledge of the team's playbook, it was an obvious choice.

"There's always a transition period or else you wouldn't have to practice, but I think he's done a great job of working out, keeping himself in shape," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "I think he's happy to be back, getting back in the flow of things."

No doubt.

Jackson worked out with Miami for brief time after being cut, then spent some time with a throwing coach in Atlanta. After that, he ended up practicing in a park across the street from Denver's training facility with a few players who had been released by the Broncos.

"I think this is a great opportunity for me to get an opportunity to play, and I am just going to try to get in there and take advantage of it when I do get a chance to play," he said.

To make room for Jackson, the Broncos placed rookie defensive end Bryant McNeal on injured reserve.

McNeal was expected to miss up to two months with a disc injury in his back, but the Broncos decided to use his roster spot instead of waiting.

Shanahan said McNeal tweaked his back during a weightlifting session Monday, but wasn't sure it would require surgery.

"Like most kids when they do have an injury, a lot of times they don't want to get treatment or they don't think it's that bad," Shanahan said. "But the bottom line is the MRI was positive."

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BEUERLEIN STICKING AROUND: Beuerlein's season is over after breaking his finger, but Shanahan wants him to stick around whether he decides to retire after the season or not.

"I want him to be either on the sideline or in the press box," Shanahan said. "He's a big part of this football team. He's not just a football player to us. He's a team leader, a coach, very mature, understands what's important for a team to win. For him not to be around here would hurt our football team."

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COLE HURTING: The Broncos could be without kick returner/receiver Chris Cole against Baltimore on Sunday.

Cole, who has a sprained left ankle, didn't practice Wednesday and is expected to be held out Thursday. He's listed as questionable on the team's injury report.

"It's pretty sore right now," Cole said. "I don't know what it'll be like at game time, but I'm getting better throughout the week."

Cole is sixth in the AFC with an average of 24.9 yards on kickoffs.

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EXTRA POINTS: The Broncos brought in four quarterbacks -- Jeff George, Todd Husak, Barndon Doman and Mike Quinn -- Tuesday in an effort to find a third quarterback, but no deals were announced Wednesday. ... Ed McCaffrey tested his sore knee in practice, but it's unclear if he'll be able to play against the Ravens. McCaffrey missed Sunday's game against Minnesota. ... C Tom Nalen (ankle) and TE Shannon Sharpe (knee) didn't practice Wednesday, but both are expected to return Thursday.

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