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Notebook: Playing in Primetime

Posted Nov 15, 2011

Broncos players are excited about playing on Thursday night; Elvis Dumervil says he is fully healthy; Chris Harris learns from the veterans.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos find themselves in a unique position this week with a game on Thursday night.
On one hand, it presents the team with a shortened week. The players had a day off yesterday, though many chose to come in and watch film, and they practice Tuesday and Wednesday before hitting the field Thursday evening.
"The mental aspect, we've been focusing a lot on what they do and trying to cram everything that they do in two days," cornerback Chris Harris said. "That's probably been the most difficult thing."
But on the other hand, it's a chance for the Broncos to play on national TV in primetime.
"I'm excited," defensive end Elvis Dumervil said. "It's going to be a great atmosphere in front of our home crowd Thursday night, so we expect as a team for the fans to be extremely loud. It's going to be great."
Dumervil's fellow defensive end, Robert Ayers, expressed similar sentiment. While the preparation window is decreased, the chance to play in the only NFL game on television Thursday is an opportunity he enjoys.
"It's pretty tough, but it's tough every week," Ayers said. "I look at it more as a privilege to be selected to play on a Thursday night game, primetime. That's how I'm approaching it, as a privilege. We just are going to prepare for it as best as we can."
Every week the Broncos defense appears to be getting better and better.
Dumervil is partly responsible for that. In the past two games, Dumervil has found his way into opponents' backfields, recording two sacks and five quarterback hits, creating problems for the offensive line with his size and quickness.
He says he is fully healthy now, and he's able to use many of the moves he used two years ago when he went to the Pro Bowl.
"I can bring the whole arsenal and use different moves and not have to think about injuries -- just start playing now," Dumervil said. "(The ankle) is getting better. My body is definitely getting better, the conditioning is getting better, so I'm looking forward to finishing strong."
With linebacker Von Miller giving opposing offensive fronts headaches, teams have chosen to double team him in recent games. However, with Dumervil at full strength, that just creates more problems for their opponents.
"You definitely have to double Von, too, so we both get doubles and we'll see how they try to protect against us," Dumervil said. "The coaching staff does a good job of mixing blitzes in and D.J. Williams, Joe Mays, Ryan McBean -- those guys are getting in there. You can't double both outside guys because then that will create a lot of opportunities for guys inside."
But the defense's steady play can't solely be a result of one person. Rather, the unit as a whole has benefitted from their coaches.
"The coaches are doing a good job preparing for us and players are doing a good job of being coached and giving it their all," Ayers said. "We still got a ways to go but as long as we keep improving, we'll be alright."
This summer, Chris Harris was unemployed. He didn't hear his name get called on draft day, and had to wait three months for a team to call him.
The Broncos decided to give Harris an opportunity, and now just a few months later, Harris has settled into his role as the team's nickel cornerback.
"You definitely have to take advantage of your opportunities," Harris said. "Being an undrafted free agent, you're not going to get too many opportunities, so when the time does come, you have to go out there and play great. That's definitely been something that I've been trying to do -- stay consistent, stay preparing well."
Thankfully for Harris, the Broncos have plenty of veterans in the secondary who have been willing to tutor him. Players like cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Andre' Goodman, and safety Brian Dawkins -- all of whom have a combined 39 years of NFL experience between them -- have taken the opportunity to show the young Harris the ropes.
"Those guys have definitely been helping me out understanding the other teams' offense and what to look for out there on the field," Harris said. "They've definitely helped me get a lot more comfortable."
Both the Broncos and the Jets practiced today. Here are their injury reports.
For the Broncos:

LIMITED: Safety Brian Dawkins (ankle) and running back Willis McGahee (hamstring); FULL: Cornerback Cassius Vaughn (hamstring), linebacker Wesley Woodyard (knee), tackles Ryan Clady (knee) and Chris Clark (knee) and tight end Julius Thomas (ankle).
For the Jets:
DNP: Defensive back Brodney Pool (knee) and he is out for Thursday's game, wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (knee), tight end Shawn Nelson (illness), running back LaDainian Tomlinson (knee), and wide receiver Patrick Turner (kidney); LIMITED: Defensive back Darrelle Revis (knee); FULL: Wide receiver Plaxico Burress (low back), defensive lineman Marcus Dixon (shoulder), linebacker David Harris (ankle), wide receiver Santonio Holmes (foot) defensive linemen Mike DeVito (knee) and Kenrick Ellis (ankle), offensive linemen Nick Mangold (ankle) and Matt Slauson (ankle), linebackers Josh Mauga (low back) and Calvin Pace (groin), running back Joe McKnight (toe), and defensive back Isaiah Trufant (hamstring).