Bell: Broncos working well despite injuries
All that's old is new again in Denver, at least at Broncos training camp. Coach Mike Shanahan runs a tight, structured practice and it does not appear to the observer (which would be me) that one second is wasted.
A variety of running backs were rotated through the first team offensive drills. Hmmm. Multiple running backs. We have seen that before in Denver. To be fair, there was a running back shake-up just one day earlier as a result of injury. Rookie Ryan Torain, who by all reports had been impressive enough to challenge for regular playing time and was listed on the latest official depth chart (dated August 3) as the No. 3 back, injured his elbow in practice Wednesday. At first thought to be an elbow fracture that would force Torain out for at least six weeks, an MRI revealed that Torain suffered a dislocated elbow and ligament damage and he is expected to be out for three months. Torain was injured when he tried to brace himself against hitting the ground by extending his left arm while being tackled during drills. According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, Shanahan indicated that up until the injury, Torain had been performing well enough to potentially compete for the starting tailback position. Fullback Michael Pittman will now likely see some time at tailback as a result, while Andre Hall and Anthony Alridge continue to battle Selvin Young for playing time. If Thursday morning's practice was any indication, Pittman will be doing more of what he has always done well, catching passes out of the backfield.
Wide receiver Brandon Marshall was not talking to the media Thursday. Apparently he had had enough of that after responding to the news of his three-game suspension by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for violating the league's personal conduct policy. (Marshall can have his suspension reduced to two games if he agrees to undergo counseling and meet other conditions, not yet specified). I was focused on Marshall's practice performance Thursday, not relative to the news of his suspension, but instead to observe how his injured arm was faring. Marshall injured himself in March when he was roughhousing with his brother and fell into the glass door of an entertainment center. The glass sliced open his right forearm resulting in nerve, artery, vein, muscle and tendon damage. Marshall underwent surgery to repair the tissue damage and reportedly had been recovering nicely, but did begin camp appearing a little under-conditioned. Marshall looked sharp on the field Thursday, however, catching several nice Jay Cutler passes and handling the ball with ease. If Marshall were physically struggling now, the suspension, which requires Marshall to be away from the Broncos' practice facility during that time period, would pose greater concern. Although there is no doubt that Marshall's presence will be missed in those games, he is showing some nice timing with Cutler, which is not surprising considering how well the two worked last season.
Speaking of Cutler, he seems to be adapting to the life changes that accompany his recent diagnosis of Type I diabetes. It is no secret that Cutler experienced fatigue and weight loss prior to his diagnosis. He is now back to his playing weight and says he is feeling much better. Cutler told the Rocky Mountain News back in May that he could already feel a difference since March. "I've got all of my zip. I can make all the deep throws." And that was certainly in evidence at practice as Cutler efficiently delivered the ball all over the field, making short, medium and deep throws with good timing and accuracy. Cutler's condition requires that he take insulin and he checks his blood sugars throughout practice to ensure that he is staying in the proper range. He clearly seems to be relieved, as the Broncos must be, that he is feeling like his former self.
My favorite conversation of the day may have been with Broncos wide receiver Keary Colbert. Colbert is new to the Broncos this season, coming over from the Carolina Panthers, and is currently competing for an opportunity as a starting receiver while Marshall serves his suspension. Perhaps more importantly, Colbert is also new to fantasy football this season. Colbert and I participated in a fantasy draft for an ESPN league that features ESPN.com fantasy writers and NFL players (other players include Roy Williams and Drew Bennett, ...). Our draft highlights were recently written up in ESPN the Magazine. Colbert told me that his introduction to fantasy was a fantasy basketball league that he joined last year comprised solely of Panther teammates. He says he "got the idea" of how fantasy games worked, and was interested in trying football. His best draft moment, in my opinion, was when he asked on our teleconference if he could draft himself in the last round as "Mr. Irrelevant" (in tribute to the nickname given to the last player drafted in the NFL draft every year). Since I had the last pick, I actually offered to draft him myself for that purpose. He wanted to do the honors though, so he picked himself in the last round, four slots before the final player chosen, and dubbed himself Mr. Irrelevant of our draft. Colbert has a wonderful sense of humor and is looking forward to playing fantasy football this season, but clearly he has his priorities straight. As he said to me, "I need to make sure I take care of my business on the field, or my name won't matter in fantasy." Right you are Keary, right you are.