ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --The loudest voice in the locker room was about to speak -- and he wanted to make sure everyone could hear.
"Hey, Kapri! ... I'm talking!" Aqib Talib yelled from his corner of the locker room to second-year running back Kapri Bibbs, who had a camera in front of him for an interview.
Talib didn't mean it seriously, of course, but his message was clear: He's ready to play, and his excitement at returning was so boundless that he even embraced the question-and-answer part of the job.
1. "I'M BACK, BABY!"
With a full practice Monday and the discomfort from his back injury gone two and a half weeks after he received an injection, Talib emerged from the day's work feeling "great" and on track to play against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Almost as happy as Talib was his locker-room neighbor, fellow Pro Bowler and Kansas product Chris Harris Jr.
"It just makes my job a lot easier just being able to have a guy out there that knows what's going on," Harris said. "The communication is always on point. I don't really have to talk to everybody all game."
Talib remained back in Denver over the bye weekend to focus on continued treatment and conditioning work.
"You sit out three weeks and don't play football, it doesn't really matter what you're going to do, you're going to be tired," Talib said. "So the more [conditioning] you can do, the better you can be."
With the time off, Talib said his legs feel "extra fresh -- like super fresh right now." All the while, his mind focused on the Chiefs. With this week set as the target for his return, he got an early start on his Chiefs preparation.
"I've been watching Kansas City for two weeks," Talib said.
The Broncos returned to the practice field Monday after a five-day break for their bye week. (Photos by Eric Bakke)
- THE DEFENSE IS FINALLY WHOLE ...**
... or at least as close as it can be without Vance Walker, who is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
With Talib and Derek Wolfe expected to return, the Broncos will have their first-team regular-season defense intact for the first time since DeMarcus Ware suffered a forearm injury in the third quarter of the Week 2 win over the Colts.
Ware missed five games. By the time he returned Oct. 30 against San Diego, Talib was sidelined for the first of a three-game stretch spent dealing with a lower back injury.
"It's always good when we get in that huddle and you see everybody -- all the guys," Talib said. "It'll be good. We're well-rested. We should come out and play real fast."
"You can see that they're really fresh," added Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "[They are] mentally fresh more than anything from getting away from football a little bit, [with] a lot of enthusiasm out here today with guys bouncing around."
3. RESTED AND READY
Only Matt Paradis and Emmanuel Sanders were sidelined Wednesday. Paradis continues to receive rest days for his injured hip, while Sanders is awaiting the birth of his child.
It was the first time in months the Broncos weren't "beat up" to some degree, Kubiak noted.
"We were competitive. We weren't trying to rest 10 guys and get through a Wednesday or Thursday practice," he said. "We were back at it in competitive situations. Hopefully we can stay healthy and stay that way the last six weeks."
4. UNFETTERED JANOVICH
It's back to normal for rookie fullback Andy Janovich, who was able to ditch the club cast on his hand Monday, allowing him to return to full effectiveness after wearing it for the last three games.
"It'll give us one more personnel [group], because obviously the last few weeks, I've been pretty limited in what I can do, so we've been using a lot more tight ends," he said. "It will get me back in the game -- it's just one more personnel [group] to think about."
Janovich averaged 12.7 snaps the last three games with the club cast, a 46.3 percent drop from the average of 23.6 snaps he amassed in the first seven games. With his ability to make plays with the ball limited because of the cast, his opportunities to touch the football dried up after he racked up 69 yards on seven total touches (a 9.9-yard average) from Weeks 1-7.
Despite the cast, he made a one-handed, 9-yard reception against New Orleans on Nov. 13 -- a play that wasn't really planned.
"More than anything, I was just surprised," Janovich said with a laugh. "I don't think it was supposed to work out that way. I think I was just supposed to open up a hole for a running back so he could get out into the route, but it didn't work out that way; it turned out I was the only one open; so [Trevor Siemian] threw it my way."
His catches won't be as difficult in coming weeks.
- BYE WEEK EVALUATION**
You can't reset everything at the bye week, but the respite did offer an opportunity for evaluation.
"Being able to present to your players, 'This is what we see, this is what we have to improve upon and [these are] some changes that we're going to make when you come back,' [is] the way that we try to leave them when we left them for the week and before we gave them the break," Kubiak said.
Added Talib: "It wasn't really a message. It was just stating the facts: 'This is what we're giving up; this is what we're doing good; this is what we're doing bad; this is how teams are attacking us.'"
And for the defense, that meant hearing about the ground game, which is now 29th in yardage allowed per game (123.7) and 24th in yardage allowed per carry (4.36), only ranking in the top 10 in first-down rate (one allowed every 4.73 attempts).
"Being in the high 20s is not good. That's not our standard here. We know that's something that we need to tighten up," said cornerback Chris Harris Jr. "If [we] tighten up for these last six games in the run, it's going be hard for teams to beat us."