Easily the most encouraging sign for the Broncos at their practice Monday afternoon was the presence of a full corps at running back, with Travis Henry, Mike Bell and Andre Hall each returning to uniform.
None of the tailbacks practiced last week, and Hall has missed the last two weeks — plus the final two sessions of training camp — with a right-hamstring injury. While all three were on the field Monday, Henry will not play Thursday night, as Head Coach Mike Shanahan confirmed Monday that he will hold the starters out of the preseason finale with Arizona, just as he has in other preseason-closing games the last six years.
Henry, however, doesn’t believe he needs another game to work back into speed.
“I think this week alone should get me ready for the opener,” he said. “I think this is a big week for me. I’ll get a chance to run with the scout team and get my legs under me and by next week I should be ready to go.”
Henry also said he practiced without pain, “but today, they just wanted me to feel my way,” he said, “so I was picking and choosing when I burst. (Today’s practice) was to see where I was, and it worked out great.”
But this was also a practice that heralded the hardest week of the year, at least emotionally speaking, as the Broncos trim more than one-third of their roster in whittling down to 53 by the weekend.
“It’s really a tough time. People work their whole career to get to the National Football League, and you have to sit down with them and tell them that the thing they’re working for — at least here — isn’t going to work out,” Shanahan said. “This is toughest part of the job … especially with the people that have worked so hard to make themselves a part of the team.
There were a number of players absent from Monday’s two-hour practice session.
Offensive tackles Ryan Harris and Adam Meadows, wide receiver Rod Smith and guard Ben Hamilton were not in uniform as practice began Monday; all four have grappled with injuries that have kept them sidelined for at least the last two preseason games. Running back Cedric Cobbs, fullback Troy Fleming, tight end Teyo Johnson, wide receiver David Kircus, defensive end Kenard Lang, kicker Brandon Pace, wide receiver David Terrell and defensive tackle Demetrin Veal were also not on the field.
Shanahan declined to comment regarding the players not on the field.
“We don’t talk about that today. There’s a number of players that didn’t work out today,” he said. “We’ll announce that (Tuesday).”
The Broncos and their 31 NFL brethren will trim their rosters to 75 players by 2 p.m. MDT on Tuesday, so no cuts have officially been made.
More later today — specifically a breakdown of the numbers from the preseason to date. Until then, vaya con Dios.