The Broncos didn’t necessarily slot Demaryius Thomas as a candidate to be their kick returner when they used the 22nd overall pick in April’s NFL Draft to select the wide receiver.
But after giving him a chance in Sunday’s win at Tennessee, Head Coach Josh McDaniels has confidence the 6-foot-3, 229-pound rookie is the right man for the job.
“He is a little taller than most (returners). He’s probably a little thicker than most, but in our mind, he’s harder to tackle than most and he’s probably just as fast as anybody else,” McDaniels said. “The more he did it, the more he wants to do it and I think he’s really embraced that.”
Thomas saw his first action as the deep man on the kick return unit last Sunday at Tennessee and finished with 144 return yards on four attempts, including a 65-yard return to set up a third-quarter Matt Prater field goal.
Thomas, who has 11 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown this season, said special teams coordinator Mike Priefer came to him last week and asked if he’d be ready to handle return duties. The receiver told him he’d be happy to get on the field any way possible.
Heading into his second game as a kick returner, Thomas said he’s starting to get a better handle on what it takes to be a good NFL returner.
“I learned that the game is fast and if you’ve got a hole, you’d better hit it instead of tiptoeing through it,” Thomas said. “If not, you’re going to get hit.”
McDaniels said Thomas also will see time against the Ravens on the kickoff and punt return team as well.
Thomas’ willingness to contribute in any way possible early in his career fits right in with the philosophy McDaniels has worked hard to instill in his team during the past two seasons.
“That’s just his attitude and it’s a tribute to him and a number of other players in our locker room that are very unselfish and will play any role that we ask them to do,” McDaniels said.
During his morning media session, McDaniels said that Knowshon Moreno and Spencer Larsen will be out for Sunday’s game because of injuries.
“Knowshon and Spencer just aren’t ready to go and (I) don’t think it’s the right thing to do to try to force them to try to play before they’re ready to go,” McDaniels said.
McDaniels said he expects Andre’ Goodman and Wesley Woodyard, who both missed Sunday’s win at Tennessee, to be available against the Ravens after evaluating the pair in practice so far this week. They’re both listed as questionable for Sunday’s game on the injury report.
Moreno, who has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, returned to the practice field on Wednesday on a limited basis but missed the Thursday and Friday workouts. Larsen, who sat out against the Titans with an ankle injury, did not practice this week.
Moreno’s absence means Laurence Maroney, Correll Buckhalter and Andre Brown will likely be the three available running backs for the third straight week. With Larsen out, McDaniels said Dan Gronkowski will see more time in the backfield as a fullback.
For the Ravens, Jared Gaither (back), Tavares Gooden (shoulder), DE Paul Kruger (knee) and Donte’ Stallworth (foot) will miss Sunday’s game. Jason Phillips (illness), Tom Zbikowski (thigh) and Edgar Jones (thigh) are listed as questionable. Todd Heap (shoulder), Le’Ron McClain (shoulder), Ray Rice (knee) and Fabian Washington (illness) are probable for the game.
- Eric Detweiler, DenverBroncos.com
Below are some more photos from Friday’s practice: