ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --The Broncos are getting healthy.
Four players — cornerback Tracy Porter, linebacker Danny Trevathan, running back Ronnie Hillman and safety Quinton Carter -- returned to practice on Monday after missing time for a variety of reasons.
Porter, who missed most of last week's practices with an illness, was a full-go on Monday.
Rookie linebacker Danny Trevathan had been kept out of practice since the first preseason game in Chicago, where he suffered an ankle injury. He, too, fully participated in the shells-and-shorts practice.
"That was great, especially to see Tracy back," linebacker Joe Mays said. "We got Danny back — the rookie back. He's able to come out here and work out. Everybody said he came off of a retirement. They were joking around with him. It's great to have guys back to get our depth back and get some more guys out here so they can get some reps as well."
In addition to Trevathan, Hillman was another rookie who ended his absence from practice on Monday. Hillman injured his hamstring early on in training camp and missed about a week before getting back into walkthroughs prior to the Chicago game.
A game-time decision at Soldier Field, Hillman didn't end up playing against the Bears, but continued to ease his way back into practice until last Tuesday, when he left early after reinjuring the hamstring. That led him to miss the Seattle game on Saturday night.
"It's very frustrating to get out here and reinjure yourself," Hillman said. "You just have to roll with the punches, get back through training and get healthy again."
Hillman returned once again to the practice fields on Monday and took reps with the second and third teams. He caught multiple passes out of the backfield and flashed his usual quickness in turning the edge and getting up the sideline.
"It felt really good," he said. "I'm easing into it. I don't want to get out there and run too much and pull it again. It's coming along pretty well."
During special teams drills, quarterback Peyton Manning tried to catch Hillman up to speed by taking him to a vacant part of the practice fields and throwing passes to him.
"It helps a lot," Hillman said of his mini-workout with Manning. "You have a vet like that who's willing to help and critique your skills, tell you the proper route and what to do. It helps a lot."
Carter's return to practice on Monday was also big news for the Broncos. Carter injured his hamstring and knee on July 27, the second day of training camp. He partook in individual drills on Monday -- hitting the sled, jumping on fumbles, and catching interceptions.
"I've been very anxious to get back out there," Carter said. "It felt good to start working back in drills and what not. Especially getting a little bit more speed. It's kind of tough on you watching film every day and watching everybody else go at it and not be able to be part of that, but it felt really good."
While Hillman admitted that his hamstring still wasn't "full strength", Carter's personal status update differed.
"(The knee) is feeling wonderful," he said. "It's feeling better than it did at the end of last season. So I'm really excited about that."
Still, Carter remains cautious. If practice were a swimming pool, he would be taking the stairs – not the diving board.
"I do (have to hold myself back)," Carter said. "It's tough out there, even in individual drills, to try slow down a little bit just to maintain myself and make sure I don't reinjure anything. It's difficult. Plus, football players, we're used to playing in some pain, so it's kind of hard to monitor when I should go hard and when I should cut back a little bit."
Though the second-year safety is listed as a starter on the depth chart, Carter is approaching this portion of his recovery process like he needs to earn his spot all over again.
"I'm not even on the depth chart in my eyes right now," Carter said. "That's where I'm at with my mentality. I'm at the bottom (of the depth chart). So I need to work from there and try to get back where I left off last season."
The four players that returned to practice on Monday are all in different places in their path to recovery, as it's not yet clear who is 100 percent healthy and who isn't quite there yet. What is clear is that Monday's attendance was a positive for the Denver Broncos.
"I think what it does is it just moves things up," Head Coach John Fox said. "Obviously, the seconds were kind of the thirds for this last game. Getting guys healthy will be helpful for this game (against San Francisco)."