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Elway, Fox Talk Keeping 'Best 53'

Posted Aug 31, 2013

EVP of Football Ops. John Elway and Head Coach John Fox talked in-depth about the roster cutdowns. "I like this team," Fox said.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos front office knew what it had to do going into Saturday's roster deadline.

"We’re going to try to pick the 53 best guys that we think can help wins us a championship," Head Coach John Fox said after the club's preseason finale.

Both Fox and Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway noted just how hard it is to trim the roster from 90 to 75 to 53. But it's a process that every team goes through before Week 1, so no matter position, age or draft status, the team kept what it considered to be the best players.

"We’re fortunate with the fact that we had a lot of tough decisions, but the bottom line is what we want to do is keep the best 53," Elway said Saturday.

That was apparent in some of the younger players that were let go, including two 2013 NFL Draft picks -- wide receiver Tavarres King and tackle Vinston Painter. A third, defensive end Quanterus Smith, was placed on injured reserve.

"As you get better, you have fewer slots," Elway said. "That’s the situation that we’re running into and we’ve got a lot of good football players on this team. The rookies these days, they have to get on board and get there fast and mature fast, which is tough to do for some. Our goal is always to keep them, but that’s why you have competition, too.”

As for whether some of those young players who didn't make the active roster could be added to the practice squad, Elway called it "a liquid process."

On the other side, an undrafted rookie made the club for the 10th consecutive season. This year, it was running back C.J. Anderson. He joins linebackers Wesley Woodyard and Steven Johnson, cornerback Chris Harris and long snapper Aaron Brewer as the fifth player currently on the roster who originally made the squad as an undrafted free agent.

That doesn't include players like Duke Ihenacho -- a 2012 college free agent who didn't make the final 53 but spent last season on the practice squad -- who has worked his way to the top of the depth chart at safety.

“We keep good football players, whether they’re drafted or whether they’re free agents," Elway said. "I think that you need the veterans but the bottom line is that we kept the best 53. Everyone says you want to win now and I say we want to win now on."

Among the topics Fox and Elway broached during their press conferences was how the roster broke down by position. After keeping nine defensive backs in 2011 and 10 last year, the club held onto 11 entering this season.

Some of that decision, Fox said, was that the front office and coaching staff believed those players were among the best on the team. Part of it, Elway added, was also due to the status of cornerback Champ Bailey, who is recovering from a foot injury. Bailey said last week that he's "getting better every day."

It also comes down to special teams, where many of the defensive backs will contribute heavily.

"Those are the type of things that a lot of people don’t think comes into the equation, but what you do on fourth down is a part of it, too," Elway said.

The team also kept just five wide receivers, with one spot going to Trindon Holliday, who is primarily used as a returner.

The versatility of the club's four tight ends -- Julius Thomas, Joel Dreessen, Jacob Tamme and Virgil Green -- helped make that decision a little easier.

"There are plenty of weapons," Elway said.

With the cuts behind them, the Broncos can look ahead to putting together a practice squad of up to eight players starting Sunday, which happens to fall in the middle of the team's week of preparation for Thursday night's NFL Kickoff Game.

Fox said he expects to have the practice squad lined up before the team practices Sunday. And he's glad to be able to turn his attention to the start of the regular season.

"I like this team," he said. "I like the way they’ve gone about their business, the way they’ve worked. You’ve got to be sick or dead to not be excited for opening day, no matter what city you’re in. Of course they’re excited. And to be able to kick off the NFL season makes it even more exciting -- against the defending World Champs.”