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Thursday Notebook: Williams Plans on Returning Punts

Posted Nov 16, 2006

A separated shoulder didn't keep Darrent Williams from playing last Sunday. This week, he hopes to regain his role of returning punts.


Al Wilson
Al Wilson and the Denver defense are giving high praise to first-year quarterback Philip Rivers, ranking the Charger right behind Peyton Manning. PHOTO: RYAN McKEE / RICH CLARKSON AND ASSOCIATES


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Darrent Williams took to the field in Oakland last Sunday a week after separating his shoulder in the win at Pittsburgh.

Though he displayed a gutsy performance at cornerback, the coaching staff held him back from his previous duty of returning punts.  However, Williams remains confident that he'll return to that role Sunday night against the Chargers.

"I should be back there," Williams said. "I took one to the house against San Diego last year that got called back for nothing, so hopefully I'll get that same opportunity this year and hopefully make some big plays in the return game."

Williams has 120 yards on 16 returns this season, including a 33-yard return on Monday Night Football against the Baltimore Ravens. He's confident that his mobility has improved enough that he'll be able to contribute on special teams.

"It's real good now," he said. "It (isn't) going to be 100 percent -- but it's as good as it's going to be. It might get a little better, but playing every week, it probably isn't going to get too much better, so I'm feeling pretty good about it."

Williams held his own last Sunday, contributing three solo tackles and a pass defensed. Though the day was anything but pain free, just playing through the injury without coming out any worse helped the 5-foot-8 cornerback put the injury behind him.

While Williams' shoulder garnered little press in light of the many injuries that kept some of his teammates on the sidelines, it was on the front page of his thoughts.

"One thing that was on my mind was not hurting my shoulder again; when I was making some tackles, I was mainly trying to throw my body to the right so I used my right shoulder instead of my left, so I wouldn't re-injure my shoulder again, so it was real key for me to come out without injuring it again, because now I'm more confident," Williams said. "By the second and third quarters, I really wasn't feeling it at all.

"Then at the end of the fourth quarter, I got a little pain; it just felt heavy, just because I'd been working so much. It was a little bit of fatigue, but besides that, I feel real comfortable with it."

TOP OF THE CHARTS: Though he's just a first-year starter, San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers has already earned the respect of one of the league's top defenses, which ranks the young signal quarter among the league's best.

"I think Philip Rivers is -- we're looking at the second-best quarterback in the NFL right now behind Peyton Manning," Al Wilson said. "They're very explosive. They do a great job of making big plays and getting (LaDainian Tomlinson) the ball (and Antonio) Gates the ball. It's going to be a great challenge for us. We're looking forward to it."

Being that the Broncos are more than familiar with the talents of Manning, the praise of Rivers comes as a genuine comparison.

"He makes good, accurate throws," Darrent Williams said. "He's been getting the job done. His quarterback rating is (around) 100. Right now he's the second-best quarterback in the league behind Peyton Manning."

Rivers' 2,085 yards through the air and his 13 touchdown tosses to only three interceptions has earned him attention of defensive coordinator Larry Coyer.

"To be quite honest with you, because this is his first year starting and this guy's really good now, and you hate to use comparisons -- I do -- but he reminds me of Manning," Coyer said. "The delivery and the way he handles the game; he's ripping that ball in there right now. To me, right now, he's probably the second-best quarterback in this league. He's produced those kinds of numbers. He had 42 points in a half last week. He is big-time. He's gunning that ball, and they're protecting him and making plays."

BALLOTS FOR BAILEY: Champ Bailey is the leading vote getter at cornerback in the latest Pro Bowl fan voting numbers, as announced by NFL.com. Bailey leads all cornerbacks with 184,739 votes and trails only Chicago's Brian Urlacher (244,929) among all NFL defensive players.

Bailey has been selected to six Pro Bowls during his eight-year NFL career, including last season. Peyton Manning leads all vote getters with 530,733 votes.

In addition to casting ballots on NFL.com and in stadiums, fans can cast their Pro Bowl ballot by sending the text message "PRO" to 7777 from a phone with Sprint or Nextel wireless service to vote for their favorite players at select positions. Standard text messaging and data rates apply.

The teams will be announced at 4 p.m. (ET) Tuesday, Dec. 19 on a special NFL Total Access 2007 Pro Bowl Selection Show on NFL Network. The Pro Bowl will be played at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii on Saturday, February 10 and televised by CBS.

EKUBAN EAGER TO RETURN: Ebenezer Ekuban missed at least a portion of practice on Thursday for the second time this week. The defensive end is eager to put the thigh injury he suffered in Pittsburgh behind him and return to the field.

However, the eight-year veteran understands the team's level of caution.

"It is frustrating, but it's going to get better," Ekuban said. "We have three games in 11 days, so you don't want to be crazy and stupid and go out there when you're not 100 percent and mess yourself up for three more weeks. I'm just optimistic that things will get better, but I'm not going as fast as I would like."

Ekuban believes his return to play will be based on his ability to practice at full speed, which he hasn't been able to do since the injury that kept him inactive for last Sunday's win at Oakland.

"You know (Head) Coach (Mike) Shanahan -- if you don't practice then you don't play," he said. "I didn't practice Wednesday and I didn't practice today, so hopefully I can do a little something tomorrow to get his confidence up.

"If you can't practice full speed in practice, then you're not going to do that in the game. I'm sure once they see that - me going full speed in practice - they'll feel better about having me play."

INJURY UPDATE: Five Broncos missed at least a portion of Thursday's practice: Stephen Alexander (thumb), Tatum Bell (toe), Patrick Chukwurah (hamstring), Ekuban (thigh) and Ian Gold (hamstring). All five are listed as questionable for Sunday night vs. the Chargers.

Cedric Cobbs (ankle), Kyle Johnson (ankle) and Al Wilson (thumb) are all listed as probable for Sunday.

Both Chargers wide receiver Eric Parker (neck) and defensive end Luis Castillo (ankle) have missed portions of practice Thursday and Wednesday. Parker and Castillo are listed as questionable for Sunday.