ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Long snapper Thomas Gafford wasn’t ready for retirement. So the veteran of eight NFL seasons kept in shape and snapped twice a week this season with some buddies in Houston while waiting for another chance.
That opportunity came in Denver, where he flew on Thanksgiving Day for a tryout. The Broncos needed a temporary replacement for Casey Kreiter, who strained a calf earlier in the week.
“It’s a funny league, man. I went into this season committing to myself that I was going to stay ready for anything at any time. So, it happened at any time,” Gafford said Friday after his first practice. “I’ve been working hard to stay ready, and I’m confident I’ll step in and do well.”
Gafford will snap for punter Riley Dixon and kicker Brandon McManus on Sunday when the Broncos (7-3) face the Chiefs (7-3), one of his former teams.
His job security beyond that is anybody’s guess. Coach Gary Kubiak has characterized Kreiter as day to day and said he didn’t think he’d be sidelined for several weeks like tight end Virgil Green and tackle Donald Stephenson were earlier this season.
To make room for Gafford, the Broncos waived second-year nose tackle Darius Kilgo. The rotational mainstay had played in all but one game this year to go with a dozen games, including the playoffs, as a rookie.
Kilgo, a former sixth-round draft pick out of Maryland, had five tackles this season. The Broncos are crossing their fingers that another team doesn’t claim him off waivers before they have the chance to bring him back.
Earlier in the week, the Broncos waived cornerback Taurean Nixon to make room for wide receiver Marlon Brown, and this latest move left them with an odd-looking roster that includes two long snappers, just five defensive linemen and seven wide receivers.
“Those rosters are week to week this time of year,” Kubiak said.
The Broncos decided to risk exposing Kilgo on waivers rather than have fifth-year defensive end Billy Winn, who’s only snapped in practice, fill in.
The moves also show faith in defensive end Derek Wolfe’s health. He returned to practice this week after missing just one game with a fractured right elbow and sticking around during the bye week to work on his physical conditioning.
“He looks really good,” Kubiak said. “We’ve been going with five (defensive linemen on game days) anyway here lately.”
Kubiak noted that special teams coach Joe DeCamillis was familiar with Gafford, who played for the Chiefs from 2008-14 and split last season with the Bears (11 games) and Raiders (three games).
“So, a lot of work catching him up today,” Kubiak said, “but he did a good job and he’ll make up some more ground tomorrow.”
Gafford said he’s busy learning blocking schemes and studying film to learn about his fellow linemen. But he said the easy part was getting to know his holder and kicker and the way they like having the ball snapped.
“I think we’ve probably got it down, even after one day,” Gafford said. “I think we’ll do well together.”
– By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Sports Writer
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