A pair of knee injuries have forced Brian Dawkins to miss a total of five games in his 15th NFL season.
That meant five Sundays of watching as the Broncos took the field without him. Adding to that frustration, his team lost all five of those games.
Dawkins, who missed all three games on the team’s recently completed road trip, hopes to return to the field on Sunday against Houston at INVESCO Field at Mile High. The veteran safety wants to help his team complete a strong finish to an otherwise disappointing season.
“Sitting back and watching my guys out there going through what they’re going through and not being in it with them, it is a tough, tough pill to swallow,” Dawkins said. “So, being out there with them again is a relief for me — a tremendous relief.”
Dawkins, who has been limited in practice both days this week, said he’s reassured by the fact that his injuries were routine by NFL standards — unfortunate plays that happen in a physical league every week. He first had his leg rolled up on in Baltimore in Week 5 before suffering a similar injury six games later against the Rams.
The eight-time Pro Bowler said he’s determined not to let a few minor setbacks slow down his decorated career. He said right now he plans to play both games to close this season and return next year, as well.
After spending nearly two full seasons in the same secondary, veteran Champ Bailey has no trouble believing his teammate will bounce back strong — starting against the Texans, who have the league’s No. 5 passing attack this week.
“Being that he’s had his little nicks here and there with his knees he didn’t play a full season this year, so you can’t really count this one,” Bailey said. “He’s even going to be more fresh next year.”
If anything, Dawkins said the tough season might have added fuel to his passion for the game.
For now, Dawkins is just happy to be back on the practice field. After a few weeks of rehab, he appreciates the chance to be healthy again coming down the stretch of the season.
“It’s been a process,” Dawkins said, “but finally, I’ll hopefully be able to get out there with these guys and do what I do.”
FRIEND AND FOE
Robert Ayers insists he doesn’t have much to add to the scouting report on Houston running back Arian Foster, the league’s leading rusher. The linebacker said the game tape on his former University of Tennessee teammate speaks for itself.
But that doesn’t mean the second-year Bronco isn’t fired up to welcome his friend to the Mile High City when the Texans visit INVESCO in Week 16.
“We’ve had a little rivalry since we got into the league,” Ayers said with a laugh. “We always go back and forth talking junk. I’m looking forward to playing against him and getting after him a little bit.”
In a Wednesday conference call, Foster immediately referenced the chance to go up against his old college teammate when complimenting the Broncos defense.
Ayers said he’s communicated with Foster more than usual this week, helping both players get more excited about the matchup. The 2009 first-round pick said a popular topic of conversation has been what might happen if Ayers has to corral the running back in space.
Ayers, who has come back strong in recent weeks after a foot injury, said he hopes Foster, who leads the league in rushing by 21 yards over Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew, does become the first undrafted player since Priest Holmes to win the league’s rushing title — just as long as he doesn’t have a good game this week.
Combined with the fact that New England’s Jerod Mayo — another of his former Volunteer teammates — leads the NFL in tackles, Ayers said he’s happy to see his friends excelling at the next level. But unlike many football fans, he’s not surprised that Tennessee’s second all-time leading rusher has made a major splash this season.
“In my opinion, he’s always been a great player, and he’s continued to keep getting better,” Ayers said. “This year he’s really shown what he can do.”
PRATER TO IR, BYERS JOINS ACTIVE ROSTER
The Broncos put Matt Prater (right groin) on Injured Reserve on Thursday, ending his season. The team elevated offensive lineman Jeff Byers from the practice squad to fill Prater’s roster spot.
Prater finishes his season with 76 points, connecting on 16-of-18 field goal attempts and 28-of-29 extra point tries. The fourth-year kicker has not played since Dec. 5 in Kansas City.
Byers, a rookie from USC who spent the preseason with Seattle, has been on the Broncos practice squad since joining the team on Sept. 6. The Fort Collins, Co., native was a three-year starter in college and earned third-team All-America honors last season.
On the practice field, Knowshon Moreno returned to action with limited participation. The second-year running back missed the final three quarters of Sunday’s loss in Oakland and Wednesday’s practice session with a rib injury.
“We are going to get him moving around a little it out there, get him some reps, and see if we can get him going at a good pace today,” Interim Head Coach Eric Studesville said.
Jamal Williams (non-injury) was the lone Bronco to miss Thursday’s practice. Dawkins, Kyle Orton (ribs), Demaryius Thomas (ankle), David Bruton (ribs) and Darcel McBath (quadricep) were all limited in practice for the second straight day, while Daniel Coats (finger) and Eddie Royal (lower back) fully participated in practice.
For the Texans, TE Garrett Graham (hamstring), WR Andre Johnson (ankle) and K Neil Rackers (right hamstring) did not practice for the second straight session. LB Brian Cushing (knee/ankle/foot) was limited Thursday after missing Wednesday’s practice. DE Mark Anderson (knee), T Duane Brown (shoulder), RB Arian Foster (hip) and QB Matt Schaub (right elbow) all fully participated in practice.
- Eric Detweiler, DenverBroncos.com
Below are some photos from Thursday’s practice: