ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **As Christian Ponder took his first snaps in a Broncos practice jersey, OLB DeMarcus Ware worked with Strength and Conditioning Coach Luke Richesson on the south end of the practice fields as the Broncos began their preparations for the New England Patriots.
Ware has not played or practiced since re-injuring his back against the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 8, and did not travel with the team to Chicago last weekend.
He was not in uniform spent the opening periods of practice working on flexibility drills with his legs.
"He has made some improvement," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's on the field today doing some work ... but he's got a little ways to go."
In the meantime, Ware is missed.
When Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips was asked how the defense was playing without the perennial Pro Bowler, his reply was simple: "Not as well.
"The other guys [Shaquil Barrett, Shane Ray and Lerentee McCray] have come in and done a good job," Phillips said. "We still have a good pass rush and we still play good run defense with those guys, but anytime you lose a guy like DeMarcus -- I mean, he's still our [sack-leader] and he's been out [three games]. That tells you one thing in the pass game.
During the Broncos' Wednesday practice preparing for the Patriots, Christian Ponder joined in after being signed that morning and DeMarcus Ware stretched with the training staff.
"He's a force that we don't have right now, but we hope to get him back [this week]."
LG Evan Mathis also did not practice. Mathis injured his ankle late in last Sunday's win over the Bears.
"His ankle is really sore coming out of the game. He did nothing today," Kubiak said. "Once we went to practice, he went to the weight room actually with Peyton [Manning], DeMarcus and those guys. We've got some ground to make up with him, too. We'll see, though.
Mathis dealt with a hamstring injury earlier in the season, which helped lead to the decision to give rookie Max Garcia at least one series of work in Mathis' place in recent games.
Manning also did not practice. He is in a walking cast as he recovers from a plantar fascia tear. He is expected to miss at least the next two weeks.
With Manning injured, the Broncos signed Ponder. The ex-Vikings starting quarterback wore jersey No. 2, since the No. 7 that he wore at Florida State and Minnesota is, of course, retired for John Elway.
All other Broncos on the 53-man roster practiced.
Emergency Room Care/ Denver ERs
HealthONE has 12 full-service emergency departments -- seven at our hospitals and five free-standing ERs. These include a Level I Trauma Center (adult and pediatric) at Swedish Medical Center; Level II Trauma Center at The Medical Center of Aurora; and Level III Trauma Center at Sky Ridge Medical Center. AIRLIFE-DENVER is our air medical transport serving facilities in an eight-state region.
The Medical Center of Aurora
[Saddle Rock ER](http://www.auroramed.com/conditionswetreat/emergencytrauma/saddle- rock-er.htm)
Centennial Medical Plaza
North Suburban Medical Center
[North Suburban Northeast ER](http://www.northsuburban.com/conditionswetreat/emergencycare/north east-er.htm)
North Suburban Northwest ER
Presbyterian/ St. Luke's Medical Center
[Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at P/SL](http://www.rockymountainhospitalforchildren.com/emergency-room-finder /index.htm)
Rose Medical Center
[Sky Ridge Medical Center](http://www.skyridgemedcenter.com/conditionswetreat/emergency_trauma /)
[Swedish Medical Center](http://www.swedishhospital.com/conditions-we-treat/emergency-services /)
[Swedish Southwest ER](http://www.swedishhospital.com/conditions-we-treat/emergency-services /southwest-er.htm)
The HealthONE System of Hospitals now offers you and your family convenient ways to find the closest HealthONE ER and average wait times. HealthONE's Fast LocatER is our mobile suite of tools that you can take with you on the go.
Text "ER" to 23000
Our 24/7 Emergency Rooms for adult and pediatric patients are prepared to serve your medical emergencies. Get our average ER Wait Times by texting "ER" to 23000. Standard message and data rates may apply.
Prefer to call? Just dial 720-523-3888 and enter your zip code, and you will receive our closest HealthONE ERs.