Broncos add to backfield by signing FB Johnson

12/1/2007 - NFL Kyle Johnson Denver Broncos + more

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Broncos fullback Kyle Johnson had his
Thanksgiving plans all set when he suddenly had to cancel.

Not that he minded. The Broncos called him Wednesday morning in
New Jersey to see if he was available, and he was signed and at
practice by Thursday. Denver released guard Isaac Snell to make
room for Johnson on the roster.

Johnson, who was waived by the Broncos on Sept. 1, thought he
could get up to speed by Sunday's game at Chicago. He's been
working out back home, and keeping an eye on what was happening
with Denver.

Although, he couldn't bring himself to watch NFL games on

"Emotionally, it was difficult for me,'' Johnson said. "It was
too hard.''

The acquisition of Johnson may mean a move back to tailback for
Mike Bell, who gained 677 yards in that role in 2006. Bell was
switched to fullback this season thanks to a crowded backfield. The
team already had Travis Henry, Selvin Young and Andre Hall at

"I don't know if I'm playing [tailback],'' Bell said Thursday.
"I might. We've got some good tailbacks.''

Yet Denver's top two backs are banged up. Henry and Young both
missed practice for a second straight day Thursday. Henry has been
hampered by a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his
left knee and Young suffered a knee strain against Tennessee on
Monday night.

"He's a little bit sore,'' Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said of
Henry. "He kind of jogged around a little bit. Same thing with
Selvin. He's feeling a little better.''

There's also Henry's battle with the league hanging over the
Broncos. Henry is fighting to keep the NFL from suspending him over
the results of a drug test. He had a hearing with the league last
Friday in Phoenix and could hear back on a verdict any day.

If he's unsuccessful, Henry faces a yearlong suspension.

"I haven't heard anything,'' Shanahan said after practice

Hall is the only healthy tailback on the depth chart. The
first-year South Florida product had a breakout game against the
Titans on Monday night, sealing a 34-20 win with a 62-yard
touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Should Henry or Young not be able to play Sunday, the Broncos
could slide either of their fullbacks, Cecil Sapp or Bell, over to
tailback. Sapp has seven carries for 28 yards and a touchdown this

"It's always a possibility,'' Bell said of moving over to
running back. "I'm hoping. I just want to get on the field.''

Shanahan said the move to re-sign Johnson was made because of a
calf injury to fullback Paul Smith, not to juggle around the
tailback position.

"Paul is a little banged up,'' Shanahan said. "He hasn't
practiced in a couple days. We have to have depth at that

Johnson definitely gives the Broncos depth. He played in 14
games last season for Denver, helping pave the way for Tatum Bell
to rush for 1,025 yards in 2006. Bell was traded in the offseason,
along with offensive lineman George Foster, to Detroit for
cornerback Dre' Bly.

After being released by Denver, Johnson had workouts with five
other NFL teams. He found out one hard truth -- a lot of squads are
not enamored with the fullback position.

"I had plenty of doubts,'' the Syracuse graduate said of
whether he'd play again. "I guess it crystalized the reality and
finality of the sport.''

There may be a few new wrinkles here and there, but Johnson said
the Broncos' playbook isn't vastly different from when he left. He
still plans to spend his time between now and the game Sunday
getting reacquainted with the offense.

"I feel like I have a certain understanding,'' he said. "I'm
not there now, but I hope to be.''

WR Javon Walker practiced for a second straight day
Thursday. He has missed the last eight games with a right knee
injury. "Hopefully, he's full go [Friday],'' Shanahan said. "If
that's the case, he'll be able to play on Sunday.'' ... Returner
Glenn Martinez (ankle) returned to practice Thursday. Martinez had
an 80-yard punt return against Tennessee, and was recently named
the AFC special teams player of the week.