ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Beating the odds, that’s nothing new for Kyle McCarthy.
The strong safety wasn’t drafted out of Notre Dame but made enough of an impression on the Denver Broncos during last summer’s training camp to land on the team’s practice squad.
Before long, he was promoted to the active roster and played in eight games before tearing up his right knee on a special teams play that sidelined him for the final month of the season.
After he awoke from surgery, his doctor gave him the bad news: the damage was severe, the repairs extensive and he wasn’t sure he’d ever play another down in the NFL.
“It never really crossed my mind that it could be that serious,” McCarthy said. “It was tough. But things don’t come easy. You’ve got to work for them. And that’s just what I went about doing.”
Now, he’s Brian Dawkins’ primary backup and the Broncos are figuring out ways to capitalize on his skills and smarts.
McCarthy wanted to work out at Camp Dawkins, the rigorous workout program organized by Dawkins and attended by more than a dozen of his teammates during the lockout. But he wasn’t ready right away, so he spent his days working with a physical therapist and getting his body ready to return to football.
“So, it was a long offseason, that’s for sure,” he said.
Once camp opened, McCarthy said he had full faith in his surgically-repaired right knee.
“I was always taught from a young age to just keep your head down, keep working and good things will happen,” McCarthy said. “And that’s kind of the approach that I had and hopefully it all works out.”
It certainly should.
McCarthy has been one of the Broncos’ pleasant surprises this summer.
“I think Kyle’s a smart player. He understands where to be on defense, and so he’s dependable,” defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said. “And that’s important in our league. We’ll play with guys that might be a little lesser athletically as long as we can depend on them to do the right things and be where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there, and that’s what Kyle is.”
The Broncos are feeling good about their second-stringers in the secondary thanks to McCarthy and Cassius Vaughn of Mississippi, another undrafted second-year pro.
“We all say this as a coaching staff, `It doesn’t matter how you got here, the best players are the ones that are going to play,”‘ Allen said.
And they’re sticking to that promise with both Vaughn and McCarthy, who looks more comfortable on defense this summer, although he said he’s still building up strength in his right leg.
Either way, his outlook is different now that he’s overcome even bigger odds than he did a year ago.
“I appreciate the game a little more,” McCarthy said.
Notes: DT Kevin Vickerson (knee) returned to practice Wednesday. … QB Kyle Orton on LT Ryan Clady’s return to health and dominance after dealing with a left knee injury that bogged him down all last season: “This is the best he’s been playing, I expect a huge year out of him. That’s how it has to be. You can help a lot of people in protection and all that, but when you’ve got a player like Ryan, we’re going to leave him 1-on-1 and let him have a great year for us.” … Coach John Fox declined to say which of his QBs will start Thursday night at Arizona, calling it a “game-time decision.” When a reporter jokingly suggested he should make up his mind earlier in the week, Fox replied, “Well, we do have some decisions … but we don’t make them public.” … Asked if he’s ever fielded so many questions about his backup QB situation, Fox said, “No, I can honestly say probably in my 23 years in the league — No!” … As for surprises since camp started, Fox pointed out Joe Mays, who quickly adjusted to the 4-3 scheme and earned the starting job at MLB.
– By AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)