The most recent two signees to the practice squad are at two of the slots that have been most beseiged by injuries: running back and safety.
So both Steve Cargile and Andre Hall know that their numbers could be called up to the 53-man roster at any time over the next five weeks — and beyond, if the Broncos can extend their streak of consecutive playoff appearances to four.
Denver has already foraged through its practice squad for active-roster players; wide receiver Brian Clark, running back Damien Nash and defensive tackle Antwon Burton have all been plucked from the eight-man reserve roster in recent weeks to see notable action, with Clark emerging as the team’s regular kickoff returner, Nash filling in as a tailback against the Raiders, Chargers and Chiefs and Burton seeing substantial work in the defensive-line rotation at Oakland.
Cargile and Hall joined the team in the wake of the roster shakeup around the Raiders game. Cargile came after safety Sam Brandon went on injured reserve, while Hall’s acquisition followed the decision to move Nash up to the active roster for the game on Nov. 12.
Both feel right at home.
“From the first person I met here, everybody’s been real nice, real welcoming, (with) people coming up to me and introducing themselves,” Cargile said.
“All the guys, they help you. I’ve gotten so much help (that) I’ve gotten the playbook down,” Hall added.
Both look at players such as Burton, Nash, Clark, Curome Cox, Rod Smith, Tom Nalen and Erik Pears and understand that being on the practice squad means being anything but overlooked — with this year providing ample evidence of that postulate.
“With (Head) Coach (Mike) Shanahan, if you can play, you can play,” Hall said. “A lot of coaches don’t give free agents that many chances, but from his reputation, I heard that he does that. He’s given me a shot, and I’m going to go full-force, no matter what he asks, every time.”
But he hopes his break can come soon as the running-back competition continues to bubble.
“I hope they give me a shot to run the ball,” Hall said.
For the moment, his shot has come in practice on the scout team, meaning that in the last two weeks he said he played the roles of LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson, making his next assignment Seattle’s Shaun Alexander. That reads like the top three picks in virtually every fantasy-football draft in this nation last August.
“Whatever it takes,” Hall said.
Cargile, meanwhile, would like to play, but his goals involve next year, after he’s soaked himself in the Broncos’ system.
“I think it’s to stick on the practice squad,” he said. “If I can stay here, get to learn under these guys like I’ve been doing, just keep on working hard and let the coaches see what I can do — especially the special-teams coach — then hopefully I can set myself up for next year to actually compete.”
So are they the next men up? The next five weeks will answer that question — along with many others for a team that is set to begin December looking to snap a two-game skid.