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Doing Their Part

Posted Aug 6, 2010

Every linebacker is chipping in, willing to line up wherever the team needs them in the wake of Elvis Dumervil's injury.


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As training camp standout Matthew Willis likes to say, "The more you can do, the more you can do."

That might as well be the motto of the Broncos' linebacking corps.

In the wake of the news that Elvis Dumervil will miss an indefinite amount of time with a pectoral injury, his position group's depth and versatility has been put under the spotlight on the practice field at Dove Valley.

"Being in the league quite a while now, you have to understand that it's just part of the league," Akin Ayodele said. "It's what happens. Guys get hurt and other guys have to step up. You can't replace the man, but you've got to step up and get in there and do the best job you can."

Ayodele is one of the players rotating into the starting lineup at inside linebacker alongside Wesley Woodyard as D.J. Williams has sat out the past few practices. Recent acquisition Joe Mays has seen increased duty on the inside, as well, and Mario Haggan -- who made the transition to inside linebacker this offseason after starting 16 games at outside linebacker last season -- split time Friday between the inside and outside after Jarvis Moss headed to the locker room early.

Moss and Robert Ayers have typically lined up as the starting outside linebackers in Dumervil's absence, but Haggan and rookie Jammie Kirlew have also seen their reps at the position increase.

In other words, Friday morning's practice resembled a linebacking corps by committee.

"That's something that we have in the linebacker room, playmakers and guys that are able to play different positions," Woodyard said.

Woodyard has taken virtually all of the snaps at one of the inside linebacker positions during the past few days of practice.

"Wood, he's experienced now in our system," Head Coach Josh McDaniels said. "He's definitely a physical player with great speed and has certainly played a lot in our nickel and dime packages in the years past, but he's really showing the ability to be able to play in there on that weak side. He is just a guy that deserves what he is getting right now because he's earning it every day. I think he's a great example for some of the younger players -- not a highly-touted player in terms of where he was drafted when he came out, but he's worked his way into a great role for our football team."

The former undrafted free agent found playing time as a rookie and earned the respect of his teammates in the process. Last season, he was voted a team captain, and his dedication this offseason earned him another honor from his teammates -- being named an Offseason Award Winner.

McDaniels noted that Woodyard is bigger than he was last season, preparing him for the pounding required of an inside linebacker.

"I really got in the weight room with (Strength and Conditioning) Coach (Rich) Tuten," Woodyard said. "He expressed to me to continue to try to get stronger and a little bigger, and I took it as a challenge. I had a lot of fun in there, competing with the other guys in the weight room seeing who can bench the most. I had a lot of fun trying to continue to pick up my weight."

The third-year linebacker said he -- like the rest of his teammates -- is prepared to take the field wherever the team needs him. The versatility and depth of the position group could be a silver lining that helps begin to make up for the loss of the NFL's reigning sack leader.

"More than likely, there will be some shifting around," Ayodele said. "I'm ready to play, you know, and so are other guys. It's been competitive the whole time I have been here. We have a very athletic corps and very talented corps. Everybody has a skill, but everybody can almost do everything, which is good."

PLAY BY THE RULES

An officiating crew arrived at Dove Valley Thursday and helped referee the afternoon practice session.

On Friday, Don Carey led a presentation of rule changes and points of emphasis for the 2010 season.

You can watch the video from the presentation here.

One of the biggest changes involves a change to overtime rules in the postseason. If the team that wins the coin toss marches down the field for a field goal, the other team will have an opportunity to tie the game with a field goal or win it with a touchdown. If the game is tied after both teams have had the ball for at least one possession, the game will proceed under normal "Sudden Death" rules -- the next score wins.

Other notable changes include a play being blown dead if the ball-carrier's helmet comes off and the umpire who has in the past been situated in the defensive backfield now moving to the offensive backfield.

One of the points of emphasis for the upcoming season is on players who cause a scene to argue for a penalty flag to be thrown, showing up the officials.

"That was to alert players and coaching staffs that there is a concern about that kind of gesturing," Carey said. "After the World Cup, I think anybody that watches the World Cup knows that there's quite a bit of that going on, but we've had it in our game for the last several years. Because of the proliferation of television, the guys that are begging for flags is on the increase. We would like the coaches and the players to understand that the competition committee and the owners are concerned about it."

GRIESE IN THE BOOTH

For the 2010 season, former Broncos quarterback Brian Griese will join the 850 KOA broadcast crew as a color commentator for Broncos games. He will handle the duties for all but three games -- including the team's Halloween matchup with the 49ers in London -- when former kicker David Treadwell will step into the booth.

QUOTABLE:

"Saturday night, there might be a few fireworks on the goal line, so we'll see how it goes."
-Head Coach Josh McDaniels, on the full-speed, goal-line session scheduled for Saturday's practice at INVESCO Field. The practice runs from 6 to 8 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

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