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Mason's Mailbag: C.J. Anderson continues to earn team's trust

As always, you can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase, use the submission form or scroll to the bottom of this page.

Do you think that after Sunday's performance, the Broncos will focus more on the run game in future games led by C.J. Anderson?
-- Rami Hussein

I don't know if it will be more of a focus than it was last week, but I think achieving balance will remain a high priority -- and it will happen with Anderson, at least in the short term while 40 percent of the running backs on the 53-man roster are out with injuries, and perhaps longer if Anderson continues to flourish.

You don't mess with what's working, and Anderson is working at peak efficiency in all aspects of his job: as a runner, in catching passes out of the backfield and as a blocker.

Although you can make an educated guess as to what a player will be when he gets the call to work with the first team, you don't ever know for certain about his gifts and abilities at this level until he gets some work. The Broncos have learned plenty about Anderson in the last three games, and like what they see.

"We're getting a better feel for what kind of runner he is and that vision has been impressive and him getting the amount of carries he did last week, he found some things that we hadn't really seen out of him so far," said Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase. "So I would say that he's really showing us a side of him that we didn't really know about."

Last season Denver lost at Gillette Stadium, but then effectively ended the Pats' postseason, I am abundantly confident that our boys will do the same this year. Although many people are weary that's not the case this time around, I wonder; what is your opinion?
-- Michael the Viking

My opinion is that there's too much time between now and a potential postseason rematch to even consider that possibility. There are nine teams in the AFC separated by one game, behind 9-2 New England. The Broncos play three of those teams -- Kansas City, San Diego and Cincinnati -- in the next four weeks, all on the road, where they are 2-3 and their only wins are against teams that are a combined 3-19.

Before the Broncos can even consider pondering a rematch, they've got to navigate the rough seas in front of them. A playoff bid is by no means assured, and the Broncos must first fix their road issues before talking about another trip to Foxborough, Mass.

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Love the mailbag, but I have a question ... If Barth's leg is not strong enough from missing a season who will do the kickoffs?**
-- Seth Newton

Thank you, and Barth is expected to handle kickoffs. And it's not a question of leg strength; if anything, Barth believes his right leg could be stronger after the training required in the rehabilitation process through last year and the early part of the most recent offseason.

And the last time he had full-time kickoff duty, the kickoff spot was the 30-yard-line. If his leg is indeed stronger, and he has five more yards to work with, his results should improve -- maybe not to where three-quarters of his kickoffs are touchbacks, but certainly enough for the Broncos to get by, assuming their coverage team does its work.

If the Broncos are so thin at linebacker as they say, why didn't they scoop up Shaun Phillips?
-- Patrick Kaczanowski

Because Phillips doesn't fill a vacancy that existed even before Brandon Marshall was cleared through the NFL's post-concussion protocol. He's an edge rusher who is a fit as a 4-3 end or a 3-4 outside linebacker, not as a 4-3 weakside linebacker.

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What in the world is wrong with Ronnie Hillman? First he was day-to-day, now it's did not practice. Does he have a broken bone in his foot? Bruises and sprains do not take this long to heal. Just want an answer please.**
-- John Sisson

Obviously, you're not a doctor. Second, "day-to-day" and "did not practice" are not mutually exclusive terms.

I, too, am not a doctor (although I'm married to one), but I know enough to realize that sprains are not created equally, and can sometimes take a while to heal. Ask Julius Thomas about his high ankle sprain in 2011, which hindered him into 2013, or Champ Bailey, with his foot sprain last year. Those are extreme examples, but illustrate how sprains are not always injuries that lead to a quick recovery.

There's no magic wand in medicine -- at least not here in the 21st century. Now, when you get to the 23rd century, and Dr. McCoy can heal epidural hematomas by pulling a device from his bag and placing it on the patient's forehead -- that will a different story.

That's easy: Braves utility infielder Brooks Conrad, for his defensive meltdown in Game 3 of the 2010 National League Division Series. Conrad committed an MLB-postseason-record three errors that led to two unearned runs in a 3-2 loss that was the pivot point of the series -- and, perhaps, the San Francisco Giants' run to three titles in five years.

Most of the reasons why I can absolve him revolve around this story from 2011 about a galactic misunderstanding that, for a brief moment until it was resolved, tore him asunder. And Conrad was, at best, the 24th-best player on a 25-man roster -- although that season, he played out of his mind; his .811 OPS and 117 OPS were wild aberrations from his career .660 and 78 numbers. He didn't have major-league gifts, but he managed to play 293 games at that level on grit, guile and diligence. Players like that are easy to like -- at least until their glove turns into Charlie Brown's Halloween costume.

So I pardon Conrad. But for a while, I was quite bitter. And at the time, I needed someone to talk me down from the fan ledge, in the way I try to do the same for Broncos fans when things go wrong. It's not rational to be upset at a player like that for on-field foibles, but then again, fandom itself can be irrational, since it's rooted in emotion. And emotion is like fire: harnessed, it can be positive; unchecked, it can inflict damage.

So I ask you, dear reader -- what athlete do you pardon for an on-field mistake? Use the form below or go to our submission page to share your thoughts, and I'll publish the best ones next week.

Submit a question for next week's Mailbag!

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