ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (The Sports Xchange) – One reason why Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak was willing to insert quarterback Peyton Manning into the game Sunday was the feedback that the 18-year-veteran quarterback gave him over the previous weeks while working toward full practice participation.
Manning missed six weeks due to a plantar fascia tear in his left foot.
Kubiak and Manning spoke most days, and Kubiak watched all of Manning’s workouts in some fashion — either live in person or in his office via video recording.
“As he came out of the cast, there were steps to take to getting back to work,” Kubiak said. “We made a lot of progress.”
A crucial point was in Week 16, when Manning did not practice with the team but had four workouts over five days on his own, including one just hours after HGH allegations regarding his family surfaced in by an Al Jazeera documentary report.
“He actually worked harder probably than he would have worked had he been with the team, just because it was individualized workout,” Kubiak said. “The step to be with the football team last week, the team could see, “Hey, OK, I’m feeling good. I’m ready to go. I’m back available for this football team.'”
“I just think the last two weeks were different, much different.”
What that means going forward is up for debate. Kubiak declined to name a starting quarterback Monday, and the team has three days off before reconvening Thursday.
— Just as important as the change at quarterback from Brock Osweiler to Peyton Manning last week was the shift from Michael Schofield to Tyler Polumbus at right tackle.
Polumbus came in at the same time as Manning after Schofield struggled in his one-on-one matchup with San Diego Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram. It was the latest rough game for Schofield, who struggled in the past month, including a game in which he allowed four sacks to defensive end Khalil Mack in the Broncos’ Week 14 loss to the Oakland Raiders.
Kubiak said he made the change in part because of the recommendation of offensive line coach Clancy Barone.
“I mean, that’s what Clancy does for a living,” Kubiak said. “He coaches those guys. He felt like putting Tyler in was a good move for us as a football team. We know Michael is a young player. We have three very young players that are playing up front for us. Tyler responded and played well. ”
Kubiak did not commit to playing Polumbus in the divisional-round game Jan. 17.
“I think it will continue to take all of us (at tackle),” Kubiak said. “How do we go about that? We’ll make a decision here over the next couple of weeks.
“I’ll do what I think is best for the football team. That’s what I’ll do. That’s what I’ve always done and I’ll continue to do.”
— Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. is expected to play on Jan. 17. An MRI on his shoulder revealed no extensive damage. He acknowledged after last week’s game that his shoulder was sore, but he did not expect it to keep him from playing.
— Safety T.J. Ward saw his workload increase to its usual level Sunday. It was his second game back after he missed the first three games of December because of an ankle injury he sustained late in the first quarter of the Nov. 29 win over New England.
— Safety Darian Stewart had an MRI on his hamstring Monday, but no serious damage was found and he could be back for the playoffs. The Broncos likely will be cautious with Stewart in practice, considering that it was an aggravation of a hamstring injury he sustained Dec. 13 against the Raiders.
— Safety Omar Bolden was inactive for the regular-season finale because of a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the final four games of the regular season. The Broncos hope to have him back for the playoffs.
— Inside linebacker Brandon Marshall is expected to return for the playoffs after being limited to three snaps against the Chargers. He did not experience a setback in his return from an ankle injury, according to Broncos coach Gary Kubiak. Todd Davis played the balance of last week’s game in Marshall’s place.
— Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware’s status remains up in the air after he sustained a knee injury Sunday. The injury is not believed to be serious, but it is another setback in a season that saw him miss five games because of back problems.