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Emmanuel Sanders eyes no limitations for Week 1 return

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — An Achilles injury hasn’t stopped Emmanuel Sanders.

Neither, apparently, has a surgery on his other ankle.

According to a KUSA report, Sanders underwent “tightrope” surgery on his right ankle last season to relieve pain that was so bad, Sanders thought ahead of the 2018 season he wouldn't make it through the year.

“It limited me a lot,” Sanders said Tuesday. “I remember coming out here just [for] the conditioning test. I was like, ‘There’s no way in hell I’m going to make it through the season on this.’”

Sanders said he considered having surgery on the ankle in the spring of 2018, but he chose to delay the decision because his ankle felt better.

“Then I came out [for] the conditioning test [and] it was hurting,” Sanders said. “I just battled through it the entire season. There were some games in the fourth quarter when I’m running around and I’m telling my coach Zach Azzanni, ‘Coach, my ankle’s sore. I don’t know if I can do it.’ But deep down inside I just found a way to make it happen.”

The veteran wide receiver, who tore his Achilles during an early December practice, ended up having surgery on both his Achilles and ankle over the span of just a few weeks.

And while Sanders said his Achilles still has “a little bit of [an] ache” at times, he feels far better than he did while dealing with the ankle pain that reportedly stems from Week 6 of the 2017 season.

“[The Achilles injury is] minute compared to what I was dealing with, with the ankle,” Sanders said. “I’m excited about getting out here and really playing a football game and [being] healthy and feeling good and [having] no thought in the back of my head of will the pain come or will it go. I’m excited about that whole process. I feel like all the doctors, they repaired me back to myself.”

Sanders, who recorded 71 catches for 868 yards and four touchdowns in 12 games in 2018, said he’s still conditioning his Achilles to stand up to the wear of 30 or 40 plays in a practice. But by the time the Broncos travel to Oakland for Week 1 in early September, Sanders doesn’t expect to be on any sort of snap count.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “Based off how I’m practicing [and] how I’m feeling, I don’t think so. I think I’ll be ready to go.”

Head Coach Vic Fangio pointed to Sanders when asked Tuesday about a player that’s surprised him during camp — albeit with a qualifier.

“I can’t say I’m surprised, because I kind of predicted it, but I’m happy with where Emmanuel’s at,” Fangio said. “You guys have seen him play more than I have, and I don’t know if you can tell the difference these last few days with him [between before and after the injury]. So that’s good. I thought it would happen. I didn’t know if it would happen this quick, but that’s a good thing.”

Fangio knows better than most about how Sanders worked to get back to full strength. During the offseason, as Sanders posted videos on Instagram of his workouts, Fangio reached out to his receiver to offer encouragement.

“I was very active in posting how I was doing on social media, and it was crazy because Coach Fangio would shoot me texts saying he saw my videos and that I was almost there and sending me words of encouragement all throughout that whole process,” Sanders said. “I’ve never had a head coach that texted me that much in terms of [being] excited about getting me back and telling me that I’m almost there and keep pushing."

Sanders’ road back isn’t yet complete. Fangio said Monday he expects Sanders to play in the preseason — and Sanders echoed Tuesday that he could use the extra work.

“Everybody’s like, ‘You’re playing a preseason game coming off an Achilles?’” Sanders said. “But at the same time, I want to get in the groove before the first regular-season game. If there’s anything that I need to work on, I want to at least go try it out and see what I need to work on so when Monday night comes around, I’ll be ready to go.”

BY A HAIR

The Broncos’ rookies will continue to perform skits in front of their teammates during meetings, and they’re liable to carry pads for veterans at times.

But the days of rookie haircuts are gone.

“I just don’t think it’s right,” said Fangio, who made the decision to end the practice. “I just don’t believe in hazing. There’s traditions that stay put. Guys are getting up in front of the team and doing a little skit every night. Maybe a rookie’s carrying somebody’s pads off the field, and so on — bringing in the donuts or the breakfast. But nothing physical.”

Sanders joked that he was upset about Fangio’s decision, but he also said he has learned to trust Fangio’s methods.

“That was fun, but at the same time, I respect Vic, man,” Sanders said. “I love that guy, just how he comes into meetings and breaks down situational football and how much he cares about his players and how he goes about coaching and everything. It’s awesome to see. And so if that’s how he wants it to go, that’s how it is. At the end of the day, it’s not about that. It’s about wins, so that’s what we’re trying to do around here.”

K-JACK BACK SOON?

After missing three consecutive practices, starting safety Kareem Jackson could return to the field for joint practices against the 49ers this weekend.

“Hopefully,” Fangio said when asked about the possibility of Jackson’s return for joint practices. “I think so.”

Outside linebacker Malik Reed also missed Tuesday’s practice after he “tweaked a little something” on his side, Fangio said.

The Broncos have an off day scheduled for Wednesday, and Fangio said Thursday’s practice will be similar to Tuesday’s session, which the Broncos completed in helmets and jerseys.

“Hopefully it’s nothing,” Fangio said of Reed’s injury.

Fangio said outside linebacker Aaron Wallace (hamstring), who also missed practice Tuesday, should “hopefully” be ready to practice on Thursday.

Cornerback Horace Richardson (hamstring), running back Theo Riddick (shoulder), fullback Andy Janovich (pec), linebacker Joe Joes (upper arm) and linebacker Todd Davis (calf) also did not practice Tuesday.

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