ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Julius Thomas' ankle injury is bothersome. But it is not like the ankle problem that bugged him for nearly full two seasons after going down in Week 2 of the 2011 season.
"Oh, it's nothing like the last one," he said. "No crutches. No boots. I've been able to hit the pool the whole time. It's just getting that strength back."
But it's not there yet, and that's why the Broncos deactivated him for Sunday's game at Kansas City. Thomas' work was limited to pre-game stretching and conditioning with the Broncos' strength coaches, where he was joined by other players who made the trip but did not play, including cornerback Aqib Talib.
"You get good days, and you get days that you've got to work through," Thomas said. "It's just going to be something I've got to work through and keep getting after it in that training room.
"Last week I had a couple of good days, and I was really optimistic I'd get to play, but it just wasn't feeling the way I needed it to. I'm not discouraged or anything; (I'll) just keep going and look forward to this week."
The frigid conditions at Arrowhead Stadium were not a factor, Thomas said.
"It wasn't a weather thing. It was just -- [from] talking to the doctors -- a day-to-day thing," he said. "I've got to work through it with strengthening and doing that kind of stuff. I'm encouraged with how it's going, and we'll see how it goes this week."
By missing the last 11 quarters of action dating back to the injury in St. Louis, he's seen his advantage in the team's touchdown race drop. When he left the Rams game, he had a 12-6 lead over both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
Since then, Sanders has one touchdown catch, but Demaryius Thomas has four, including three last week against Miami and his 23-yard grab against Kansas City's Sean Smith Sunday night.
When the topic of the shrinking touchdown lead arose, Julius Thomas couldn't help but smile in appreciation of the receiver's work.
"Man, D.T., he's great. I mean, I think that sometimes he doesn't always get the love: who's the best receiver in this game," Julius Thomas said. "Maybe in years past, he wasn't getting mentioned as much as he probably wanted to. But this year he's shown everybody that he can make any play that any receiver on any team can make. He's tremendously tough to cover.
"So, I didn't always expect to have a huge touchdown lead on D.T. I was kind of like, 'Hey, D.T., it's just going to be one week.' And then he has a game like he did last week when he gets three touchdowns and yesterday he gets another one. So, it's hard to keep a guy who's a dynamic playmaker like that out of the end zone."
Of course, it's hard to keep Julius Thomas out of the end zone when he plays. And given that the Broncos have been held out of the end zone on half of the 14 drives that advanced inside the 20-yard-line last week, his league-leading 9 red-zone receiving TDs are missed.
"I can't lie to you and tell you I don't picture myself making big plays even when I'm not playing," he said. "So, if I'm in the game, I'm thinking, 'Ooh, if we could just get this look, or if I was out here on this play I could have probably done something to help my team.' That's absolutely how I look at it.
"You've got to say, 'Hey, in this situation, I could help my guys out and I'm looking forward to getting back so maybe my presence can have us kicking a little bit fewer field goals.' But Connor (Barth) did a great job and it was exciting to see him."
Barth cleaned up well, and allowed the Broncos to keep adding to their lead. But the Broncos' offense will be a bit more complete when Thomas returns -- it's just a matter of when he's available.
"I hate having to watch our team go out there and play without me and not being able to add what I can bring to our offense," he said. "But you've got to be cautious, you've got to make sure everything happens at the right time and I come back when I'm fully ready to go."
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