Bell banged finger on helmet

Updated: July 31, 2004, 7:51 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- After holding out the first three days of Denver Broncos training camp because of a contract dispute, running back Tatum Bell broke his right middle finger during afternoon practice Saturday.

Coach Mike Shanahan said Bell smacked his hand on somebody's helmet during a drill.

"It looks like it is a pretty good fracture," he said.

Shanahan said he hopes Bell will be able to practice next week, but he won't be sure until doctors examine the finger.

"It all depends on how bad it is. You never know if they are going to have pins put in it, or do they just set it in a splint and how long (is it in a splint)? These are questions I can't answer at this time," he said.

Bell trotted out to lead stretches in his first practice this morning with the Denver Broncos and was promptly booed by his teammates.

The rookie knew it was mostly in jest, but he also understands there was some truth behind it.

"It killed me every day just seeing the news and reading newspapers," Bell said Saturday. "While my teammates were grinding it out, I'm still home in the bed."

The Broncos drafted Bell out of Oklahoma State in the second round of this year's draft with the hopes he can fill the void left by Clinton Portis, who was traded to Washington after rushing for over 1,500 yards his first two seasons.

Bell looked good in offseason workouts and minicamps and the Broncos were anxious to see what he could do in live action once training camp started. Bell made them wait a little longer than they would have liked.

With his agent haggling over a signing bonus, Bell ended up becoming the longest rookie holdout in Shanahan's 10 years as Denver's coach. The impasse ended late Friday, when Bell agreed to a five-year deal worth close to $4 million.

"Anytime you miss the first three days, you set yourself back," Shanahan said. "The advantage is we've had more time with the rookies this year than we ever had in the past, so that's a

plus for him. But he's missed a lot and there's nothing like practicing."

Bell didn't get to do much in his first workout, spending most of the time doing drills and working with the third and fourth teams. He did give a flash of the quickness that led the Broncos to draft him, drawing cheers from the fans at Invesco Field after bursting through a hole off right tackle.

But it was only a glimpse and Bell has a long way to go if he's going to move up a depth chart that includes Quentin Griffin, Garrison Hearst and Mike Anderson.

"We've got a number of people competing for the position, so it puts him behind," Shanahan said. "I'm glad he's in here now rather than holding out for a week or so and then it's almost impossible to get back."

It might take a little while to get back into Shanahan's good graces as well.

The coach didn't hide his frustration when Bell missed the first day of camp and it only grew worse with each passing day.

"I already knew he wasn't going to be pleased, so throughout the whole process I told my agent to get everything done so I can get into camp," Bell said. "Mike was all business when we had our talk. He told me to put everything behind me and to move forward."

Notes: Several thousands fans showed up for the Broncos' first workout at Invesco Field, but not all were there to support the home team. A pair of men standing along a rail in the middle of the lower section kept yelling derogatory comments at the players at the end of practice and were eventually led out by security to the cheers of the fans who stuck around to get autographs. ... S John Lynch gave the fans a glimpse of why the Broncos signed him in the offseason, laying out rookie wide receiver Darius Watts with a hard hit along the sideline that led to the loudest cheers of the day. ... Rookie CB Jeremy LeSueur, a third-round pick out of Michigan, was held out of practice because of a sore hip. CB Scott Turner also was in street clothes and had a wrap on his left knee.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press