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Montee Ball seeks full recovery, happy homecoming

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --There are just twp current NFL city in which the Broncos have yet to win -- and they visit one this weekend. Two losses and a 17-all draw with the Cardinals in 1973 are all they have to show for their rare trips to the Gateway City.

Montee Ball, a product of nearby Wentzville, Mo., hopes to change that. But whether the second-year running back can depends on how well his groin continues to respond as his practice workload expands.

Wednesday, Ball went through his first full practice since suffering a groin strain in the third quarter of the Oct. 5 win over the Arizona Cardinals. He worked on a limited basis last week.

"I was moving around pretty well," Ball said. "we have great trainers, and I most definitely listened to them, and they brought me along perfectly, and this is around the time when they said, 'You'll feel good.'

"But it's still a process we're going along with to see how I feel (Thursday) and the next day, and we're going to go from there."

Ball attributed his movement to not only his recovery, but the weight he lost while recovering from the injury. He now checks in at 212 pounds, his lightest weight since his junior year at Wisconsin.

"I definitely feel a difference. Most definitely feel a difference," he said. "I was out there smiling [Wednesday] because my body feels so much lighter, so much better. This is what I weighed in college, so I'm pretty excited about it.

"I'm sure it's going to show if I play this weekend, or whenever I come back and play."

If that moment comes in St. Louis, the timing would be excellent. Ronnie Hillman's foot sprain creates a natural opening for more playing time, although C.J. Anderson staked a claim to opportunities of his own after a game in which he amassed 163 yards from scrimmage.

"There's a lot competition in that running back room. It's good. It keeps the quarterback comfortable. He doesn't worry about who's in, because we all know what we're doing back there. It's great. We all work hard."

But he'd like to bear the fruit of that work in front of his nearest and dearest, who will be out in force Sunday.

Ball's immediate family no longer lives in the St. Louis area. While he matriculated at Wisconsin, his parents and sisters relocated to Madison. Ball said they will return this weekend, and meet at the home of his grandmother, who still lives in the area.

Because of those family connections, no Bronco is more excited about this being a two-night trip. He expects about "40 to 45 people" in his rooting section at the Edward Jones Dome.

Fourteen years ago, Ball's hometown stadium was known as the Trans World Dome, which hosted the Labor Day showdown between the Rams and Broncos. It was a duel of the two most recent world champions, and lived up to its heavyweight billing, with four lead changes until the Rams prevailed, 41-36.

With snow outside and a game in a dome this weekend, the Broncos had their first practice in the brand new indoor facility Wednesday.

Ball was there, an eager 9-year-old watching his beloved Broncos, proudly wearing a Terrell Davis jersey in honor of his favorite player -- who that night played his first game since tearing two knee ligaments the previous year.

"There's a picture that I have; I'm wearing a T.D. jersey, and my cousin's wearing a (Marshall) Faulk jersey," said Ball. "I saw a lot of T.D. jerseys around there."

Sunday, he'll see a lot of Broncos jerseys with his name on the back. He just hopes to give them something to celebrate -- the Broncos' first regular-season win in St. Louis, and a vital contribution toward it.

"Hopefully I'll play this weekend. I'm shooting for that," Ball said. "But it's a process that we're following."

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