As the opening game draws nearer, the excitement about starting the season against the division rival Raiders on Monday night continues to grow.
Gone is #84 Jerry Porter, who joined the Jacksonville Jaguars as a free agent, but in came former Bronco Javon Walker. And one of the most exciting matchups looks to be when either Dre’ Bly or Champ Bailey lines up across from their old teammate.
Both Bly and Bailey spoke with the media following Thursday’s practice, and both cornerbacks talked about what it’s going to be like going up against Walker.
Bly is fairly accustomed to seeing Walker from when they both played in the NFC North. As a Detroit Lion, Bly faced off against Walker when he played for the Green Bay Packers. It’s a matchup that Bly enjoys and hopes to win come Monday night.
“Javon has been to Pro Bowls and put up great numbers in this league,” Bly said. “It’s something I’m looking forward to. He’s an old buddy of mine that I’ve played against a lot.”
But Walker has been fighting a hamstring injury this week, and that brings about questions as to whether or not he would even play in the game.
“I’ll be disappointed (if he doesn’t play),” Bly said. “When you play against some of the top receivers, they bring out the best in you. Unfortunately I think he tweaked his hamstring yesterday. I’m sure he’s going to do whatever he needs to do to try to get ready for this game. Of all the games he wanted to play this year, this probably was the one — nationally televised, playing against his former team.”
Another question on all the reporters’ minds — which side has the advantage?
“Well it goes both ways a little bit, but when it all comes down to it, it’s just competition,” Bailey said. “All of that stuff will probably go right out the window. It’s going to be a little strange seeing him in a different uniform, but I’m ready for it.”
BACK IN ACTION
While Champ prepares to take on Walker, his younger brother Boss is simply getting ready to get back into the action on the field. He sprained his ankle on the team’s first defensive series against the Houston Texans in the first week of the preseason.
“When I did it, I thought it was worse than what it came out to be,” Bailey said of the injury. “It still took a little time to heal. I’m definitely excited I’m back for the first game. There’s no more doubt about me playing this Monday.”
But just because he only saw action for a few plays in the preseason doesn’t mean he’s not ready. Bailey said there is no rust to shake off and that he’s ready to start laying some hits again.
He’s especially looking forward to taking on the Raiders’ potent rush attack, led by Justin Fargas and 2008 first-round pick Darren McFadden.
“Both those backs are fast, tough. I’m sure they’ll find ways to get them the ball as many times as possible. They’re going to come with everything they’ve got this weekend,” Bailey said. “We’re expecting it. It’s going to be a big challenge. It’s going to take all 11 men to stop that running game. We just have to prepare hard. We’ve been preparing hard all week, and we’ve got to be ready for it.”
The Raiders had the sixth-ranked rush offense in 2007, and with the addition of McFadden, they look to have another big year running the ball, but Bailey is confident that the Broncos linebackers can take care of business.
“Nate Webster’s going to come hit you in the mouth. I think he probably loves football more than anybody in this building,” Bailey said of his teammate manning the middle. And as for D.J. Williams?
“A lot of effort. Athletic ability. Leadership. He’s going to come out and strike you too. He plays hard. He’s just a good leader out there on the field.”
PIERCE WAIVED, SAPP RELEASED
The team waived tight end Brett Pierce and released fullback Cecil Sapp after reaching injury settlements with the players, Head Coach Mike Shanahan announced Thursday.
Pierce, a third-year player, was designated waived/injured by Denver on Saturday. He joined the Broncos as a future-contract signee on Dec. 31.
Sapp, a sixth-year player, was placed on injured reserve on Saturday. In 49 career games with the Broncos, he posted 49 rushes for 223 yards with two touchdowns, 24 receptions for 102 yards with one score and nine kickoff returns for 187 yards.
INJURY UPDATE: There are no changes to the injury report for the Broncos, but the Raiders have shaken things up by listing Walker, who did not participate in practice today in Oakland.
Defensive end Kalimba Edwards also did not participate today, and safety Rashad Baker had limited participation with an ankle injury.
– Adam Zinser, DenverBroncos.com