ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --A 90-minute Friday practice concluded the Broncos' week of on-field preparations for the Colts. Here's what you should know from the day.
The must-win matchups for the Broncos when the Colts visit Denver on Sunday afternoon.
- KUBIAK TRUSTS THE VETERANS TO MAKE THE CALL ON WHETHER THEY SHOULD PLAY**
Starters Demaryius Thomas and Derek Wolfe are both questionable for Sunday's game, and after practicing on a limited basis this week, whether they play or not will likely be up to themselves and whether they feel their bodies can handle the workload.
That trust is not something Kubiak is going to grant willy-nilly; it has to be shown over time.
"I think guys like me and D.T. have earned that," Wolfe said. "Our work ethic and toughness shows him that if we can play, we're going to play. If we can't, we're going to tell him we can't. I've got a lot of respect for him, and he's got a lot of respect for us."
And Wolfe expects he'll be ready to go because he said his neck is merely hurting, and not injured.
"There's a difference between being injured and hurt. Something just hurts me," he said. "I'm not injured. I just have to deal with the pain. That's the difference. If you have a real injury, you shouldn't be playing."
- THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE LINE HAS FOUND A GROOVE**
No position on the offensive line saw more preseason shuffling than right guard, with Ty Sambrailo's injury leading to a competition between Michael Schofield and Darrion Weems that Schofield ultimately won.
Schofield moved all along the offensive line throughout the preseason, but his lack of full-time snaps at right guard in August did not prevent him from having perhaps his best day as a pro -- and from having his right-flank pairing with tackle Donald Stephenson pay immediate dividends.
"I think they did very well," Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison said. "I think they communicated. There were a couple of things that we could have done better, but I think that could be said of everybody up front. The two guys seem to work pretty well together."
Their partnership was symbiotic. Stephenson leaned on Schofield's past experience in the scheme, and at right tackle. Schofield learned from Stephenson's technique and ability to play multiple positions.
What also helped Stephenson was dropping weight in the offseason. He said he shed 15 pounds to get ready for his role.
"We were a little bit more downhill in Kansas City, and I dropped a little bit of weight to fit in this offense a little bit more," Stephenson said. "I'm having a lot more fun in this offense."
- PICKING UP DEVONTAE BOOKER**
Devontae Booker's first game was one he will want to forget: one fumble lost and one missed blitz pickup that led to an errant throw that Carolina's Bene Benwikere intercepted.
He will have better days -- in part because of the counsel of players around him like C.J. Anderson, who wasted no time reaching out to him on the sideline and reminding him that one correctable mistake isn't the end of the world.
"I just told him, 'Hey, man, it's not preseason; it's going to be faster than what you think. And these holes are going to close up. So make sure you've got two hands on the ball when you're going through traffic,'" Anderson said.
Anderson also offered him encouragement.
"[He told me] just to keep my head up," Booker said. "There's things that happen in football -- a fumble, a mistake, whatever it is. It happens in this game. You've just got to continue to fight from it, keep your head up and continue to play the game."
That's a lesson to which every player must stake heed.
"You know, it happens," Anderson said. "He fumbled, and we bounced back from it, and we've got his back. That's one thing we let him know.
"We said, 'Hey, man, the coaches are going to yell at you, because that's their job to do, but these 53 guys on this squad, we've got your back. So whatever happens, whatever you did, we're going to make sure we overcome it.' And we did, and he did, too."
- STATUS QUO WILL NOT BE GOOD ENOUGH**
The Broncos managed to defeat Carolina despite a minus-2 turnover margin and third-down struggles on defense that led to five consecutive Panthers conversions during the first half, allowing them to build a 17-7 halftime lead.
If those struggles continue against the Colts, Kubiak knows that's a ticket to being 1-1. Indianapolis has won 14 consecutive games in which it had a plus-2-or-better turnover margin, and since 2012 is 22-2 with any kind of positive turnover margin, including wins over the Broncos in 2013 and 2015.
Further, the Colts gashed the Broncos on third down last year, converting 60 percent of their chances (12 of 20) in the win. Carolina matched that 60-percent figure by going 9-of-15; those are the Broncos' two worst third-down conversion percentages allowed in their last 35 regular-season and playoff games.
"We'll have to play better than we did against Carolina, in my opinion," he said.
"We're not going to turn the ball over three times and get away with something this weekend. We were very fortunate 10 days ago, but we're going to have to play a lot better."
- CELEBRATING THE RETIRED NUMBERS**
Last week, three banners commemorating the Broncos' three Super Bowl wins were unveiled above the southwest stands. This week, three more banners to honor the three retired jerseys will be displayed above the southeast corner of the stadium, offering another permanent tribute to John Elway, Floyd Little and Frank Tripucka, the three players with retired jerseys.
Tripucka's No. 18 banner will also include special recognition for Peyton Manning, the only other Bronco to wear that number. Tripucka and his family gave their blessing for the jersey to be loaned to Manning for the four years he played in Denver; when Manning retired, the number was once again taken out of circulation, never to return.