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Five Broncos things you should know: Derek Wolfe gets ready, RBs need to keep legs going & more

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Thanksgiving week is just another work week for the Broncos -- and for Derek Wolfe, it's a chance to get back to work, where he most wants to be.


After missing the Week 10 win over New Orleans because of an elbow injury, Wolfe didn't have to think about the item for which he was thankful.

"To be healthy. I'm thankful to be healthy," he said.

Wolfe returned to practice Monday, and his work has him on track to return Sunday.

"It's feeling good right now. It's all up to what Greek [head athletic trainer Steve Antonopulos] says. If he says I can go, then I can go," Wolfe said.

Because traveling wouldn't hurt Wolfe in his recovery from the elbow injury he suffered Nov. 6 at Oakland, Head Coach Gary Kubiak had him travel to New Orleans for the game he had to miss.

Being on the sideline helped Wolfe remain in tune with teammates and coaches. But that doesn't mean it wasn't excruciating for the fifth-year defensive end.

"It was miserable. I hated it," Wolfe said. "I don't like watching the game in the first place; I like playing it. Having to stand on the sidelines is miserable, anyways -- just standing there for three hours isn't fun.

"And then you've got to watch your team go out there and grind. Thankfully, we won, but it's not fun to watch."



It wasn't hard to find praise for the emotional sparkplug of Kansas City's offense, tight end Travis Kelce. The fourth-year tight end has a knack for finding gaps in coverage and making catches in traffic, and is currently on pace for career highs in receptions and yardage.

The Broncos have gotten to know Kelce well the last four seasons. But no one in the locker room knows him better than Wolfe, who was one of his college roommates at the University of Cincinnati.

"We lived in a house. It was me, him, and his brother, Jason," Wolfe recalled, referring to Jason Kelce, the Eagles' Pro Bowl center, "and then three other dudes. Six people in the house. It was a mess."

All the while, Travis Kelce was learning how to play tight end.

"He came in as a quarterback," Wolfe recalled. "He was just such a big dude, and I was like, 'Why don't you play tight end?' They tried him at defensive end at one point; he played all over the place. And then finally he stuck at tight end."

The rest speaks for itself; Kelce is one of the league's best tight ends -- and his fiery nature often sets the tone for Kansas City's offense.

"He's an emotional guy," Wolfe said. "He loves the game. He loves playing any sport. If he was playing backyard football, he'd act that way. If he was playing a pickup game of basketball, he'd be acting that way. That's just the way he is. He's not trying to be somebody he's not. He's just being himself."



Kubiak confirmed that the Broncos tried to claim Ronnie Hillman off waivers after the Vikings parted ways with him on Monday, but the Broncos' effort was thwarted by the Chargers, who had a higher priority on the waiver wire. The NFL awarded Hillman to the Chargers on Tuesday.

"John [Elway] and I talked about it," Kubiak said. "We've been operating with two halfbacks -- with [FB/RB] Juwan [Thompson] being our third in a lot of ways. Ronnie knew all our stuff, so we thought it was worth a shot.

"Obviously it didn't work out. We wish him all the best. We'll keep going with where we're at. We just thought it was worth an opportunity."


The Broncos got back to work Wednesday as they prepare to face their division rivals on Sunday. (Photos by Gabriel Christus)


A point of emphasis for Devontae Booker and Kapri Bibbs was the need for them to keep their legs moving after contact.

Sometimes, that can lead to broken tackles and the kind of explosive runs the Broncos have lacked this year; just 0.75 percent of their runs have gone for 20 or more yards, the lowest figure in the league.

But what is just as valuable is how the leg churn can lead to an extra one or two yards that turns a 1-yard gain into a 3-yard pickup -- the kind of play that allows an offense to stay on schedule and not find itself in long-yardage situations.

"That was a big thing with 'Book' and Kapri," Kubiak said. "We tried to show them [that] things aren't always nice in this league. Those holes are clogged up, you're going to get hit and people are going to be there. You have to make things happen on your own sometimes.

"We're trying to really show them times where we would say that we went down too easy, too many arm tackles. We're trying to challenge them as players."

And it's a reminder that while the blocking has a massive impact, part of their success as running backs rests solely on their shoulders.

"If we block something for three or four [yards], they need to go get five or six. That's the nature of being a good back in this league. I try to present that to them."



The center of the Broncos' remodeled locker room seemed to be oddly vacant. In previous years, a cluster of lockers stood in the middle, but the reconfiguration of the room in the offseason rendered that unnecessary.

Like The Dude's apartment, it needed something to tie the room together. But instead of a rug, the Broncos opted for something far more relevant symbolically: a display case featuring the franchise's three Super Bowl trophies.

"To remind us what the main goal is," Wolfe said. "Everybody gets caught up in their own [folderol] day-to-day. But that's the main goal."

"It's great to see what you're working towards," added safety T.J. Ward. "It's great to see it in front of you rather than a picture. It's here in the flesh for guys who didn't get a chance to hold it last year. It's just a reminder. I hope it motivates other players. It's just a good thing to have in the locker room."

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