Droughs waiting to back RB up

Updated: October 7, 2004, 7:33 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Broncos running back Quentin Griffin missed his second straight practice Thursday because of a sprained ankle.

Coach Mike Shanahan said Griffin's status for Sunday's game against Carolina will be determined after Friday's practice.

"If he can't go full speed and it doesn't look good, then obviously he won't go during the game," Shanahan said.

Griffin's injury could open up more playing time for Reuben Droughns, a fifth-year veteran who was brought to the Broncos as a blocking fullback but has gotten more chances to run of late.

Earlier this week, Shanahan drew comparisons between Droughns and Mike Anderson, who ran for 1,487 yards his rookie season and later made the transition to fullback to make room for Clinton Portis.

Droughns got his chance because of injuries to backups Tatum Bell and Garrison Hearst. Bell made it off the injury list this week. Hearst is listed as probable, also with an injured ankle.

"We still like what he can do," Shanahan said of Droughns. "We have always liked what he can do at the tailback position, and we just had a lot of depth there before. If you have injuries, you have to move people around, and we always thought Reuben had some good running skills."

At 5-11, 207 pounds, Droughns is about four inches taller and 15 pounds heavier than Griffin. The thought of Droughns as a running option started coming up when the Broncos struggled mightily on third-and-1 running situations.

At one point this season, they were 1-for-7; none of those plays involved Droughns. Over the last two weeks, however, Droughns is 2-for-2 on third-and-1. Last week, in a 16-13 victory over Tampa Bay, he ran eight times for 20 yards, with most of his opportunities coming in short-yardage situations.

"It would be exciting to get some more carries," Droughns said. "I have to go within the game plan if the game plan calls for me, and if it doesn't, I have to respect that."

Droughns, a former third-round pick of the Lions, spent his first year on injured reserve and got only 30 carries in his second.

When the Broncos signed him as a free agent, Shanahan told him he would try to give him carries, although at the time, Denver had Portis and Anderson, so Droughns had to move to fullback. Up to now, Droughns' biggest impact has been as a blocker on offense and a kickoff returner, although he's glad to get the chance Shanahan said would come.

"Anytime you come into a position that you started out at and switch positions and then get another chance at the first position, you will be happy with the move," he said. "It's like getting a second opportunity."

His chances Sunday will depend on Griffin's health. Shanahan said Griffin felt like he could have practiced Thursday, but trainer Steve Antonopulos advised Griffin to work on the side.

"He was out there today running and cutting, so that's a good sign," Shanahan said.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press