DENVER --**Montee Ball didn't take long to make up for lost time.
The second-year back missed two weeks of practice after undergoing an appendectomy on Aug. 4, and only took part in a smattering of plays in team drills when he returned to the field in joint practices with the Texans this week.
But in just one series in Saturday night's game, he put in enough work for an entire preseason.
The game's first two minutes seemed like a song playing on repeat, with Ball getting the rock on each of the first five snaps. Later in the drive, he added three more touches in a span of four plays. When his only series of the game ended, Ball had totaled four carries for 13 yards and four catches for 21 yards.
"I've been working extremely hard with Peyton after practice, stuff like that, catching the football," he said. "I believe doing that stuff really helps, it really expands our offense and puts a lot of pressure on the defense by having a back that can catch the ball like that.
He noted the heavy workload was expected, after getting a heads up from Running Backs Coach Eric Studesville and Head Coach John Fox.
"They told me they were going to come and just throw me in there and see what I can do," Ball said. "Just to get used to getting hit and getting tackled and bringing that physicality to the game."
"It was more mental obviously because I was out for so long, but I'm glad that I had the opportunity to get some reps out there today."
Ball wasn't the only prominent Bronco returning to the field from injury on Saturday. In addition to Emmanuel Sanders' explosive game, the team got to see Von Miller and Kevin Vickerson in their first game action since injuries ended their 2013 seasons.
Like Ball, Miller played very briefly, but he looked very much like his quick, explosive self. He read a Texans' bootleg perfectly and nearly intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick, but settled for the pass break-up instead.
"It just happened so quick," he said. "That would have been nice. That would have been all love to intercept that and run it back."
Miller said he wasn't thinking about his knee at all out on the field and that, at least in his short amount of playing time, his knee brace didn't bother him. He also said Saturday night's action will be all he'll see until the regular season opener against the Colts.
Vickerson put in a little more work than Miller in his return, rotating in with the first team and playing significant snaps with the second team as well. After missing the final eight games (including playoffs) of the 2013 season with a hip injury, Vickerson's return was emotional.
"It was a tough injury to come back from, so that was all I was really focusing on was to take time while I was out there and just giving thanks really," he said.
Vickerson added that his hip is feeling "way better" and he wasn't tentative at all. With the Broncos' deep defensive line rotation, the nine-year veteran hasn't been on the field as much as others who are fighting for roster spots, but he looked to take full advantage of his opportunities Saturday.
"That was my whole thing today: Just seize the moment," he said. "Happy to be back on the field, but at the same time, make an impact, or make something, some kind of disruption and dominating inside, so we'll see how it goes on the film."
Vickerson's partner on the interior, Terrance Knighton, was happy to see his defensive teammates returning to the field.
"We're ready to go, everybody is healthy," he said. "It felt good to have Von and Vickerson back out there today."
"We only go as far as each other."