ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —Neither cornerback Jamar Taylor nor wide receiver Andre Holmes had to wait on the NFL unemployment line long.
But for two men itching to get back on the field, every moment spent away from an NFL club felt like an eternity.
“It was only like a week-and-a-half, so I guess it was kind of quick,” Taylor said Thursday. “But in my mind it felt like forever. I’ve been playing this game since I was 5 and never have taken a break. … When [the Broncos] called me, I was like ‘Oh man, let’s see what happens.’ I came here and they signed me, so it’s just a big blessing.”
Taylor was released by Arizona on Nov. 20 but continued to train for a potential return and even had a workout with the Lions. Holmes, though, didn’t have to wait nearly as long. He was released by the Bills on Tuesday and was in Denver by Wednesday night.
“I was just at home, and I was really talking to my agent about, ‘Where are we gonna go?’” Holmes said. “It looked like I was going to clear waivers. It was right on the deadline and then he said, ‘Hold on, looks like someone’s calling.’
“It was like I got drafted or something. You get the call saying you’re going to be a Denver Bronco. It was really cool and exciting.”
Both players were added to contribute immediately at positions that have been impacted by injuries over the past few days. At cornerback, Chris Harris Jr. suffered a fractured fibula on Sunday, and Tramaine Brock could miss his second consecutive game with a rib injury.
Head Coach Vance Joseph — who spent part of an offseason with Taylor in Miami — expects Taylor to be ready to play by Sunday’s contest against the 49ers.
“He’ll be our fourth corner this week, so he’s going to play,” Joseph said Thursday. “I had Jamar in Miami for an entire spring and half of a training camp, so he’s familiar with our system. He’s a very, very smart guy, and he’s a tough guy. He can really run.”
Said Taylor of Joseph, “[My friends in Cincinnati told me,] ‘He’s a cornerback mastermind.’ Any time you get a coach that understands that — [along] with the coaches in the position room — I think it’s a great mix.”
And Taylor is ready for the challenge of getting ready with limited preparation time.
“I told them, ‘I’m a football player,’” Taylor said. “’I’m going to do it and study as long as I have to, to make sure I get it. I’ll stay up until my eyes are bloodshot red.’”
Holmes has already stayed up until his eyes were bloodshot red. He arrived in Denver from Buffalo late Wednesday night and was at the Broncos’ practice facility early Thursday getting situated in his new home. He estimated he got about four hours of sleep, but he was encouraged by his first practice.
“It was kind of a whirlwind as far as a quick turnaround from yesterday getting in here, getting in late, coming in early and just trying to digest the new offense and just run things right,” Holmes said Thursday. “But it was a lot of fun. I’m happy to be here. I’m excited.”
Holmes, like Taylor, has familiarity with the Broncos’ coaching staff. He shared time with Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave in Oakland.
“[The familiarity] helps a lot,” Holmes said. “Obviously there [are] things that change … but some things stay the same. There [are] certain things that I see that I recognize. It’s just being able to get everything. Throughout the season you put in new plays … and those are the types of things that I have to study and hone in on.”
Joseph also expects Holmes to be active on Sunday, in large part thanks to his versatility as both a receiver and a special teams contributor. After wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders suffered a season-ending Achilles injury Wednesday, the Broncos looked for someone who could help out in a variety of ways.
“He knows every position,” Joseph said. “He plays [special] teams. … There won’t be any altered calls when he’s in the game. He’s going to learn X, slot and Z. He’s going to play.”
Holmes recorded 14 touchdowns in his final four years in Oakland before heading to Buffalo this past offseason, but he believes that his best contributions don’t appear in the box score.
“I do some small things,” Holmes said. “I’m a willing blocker. I used my size to my advantage, and I’d say I’m a pretty balanced receiver. And also I’m a special teams player. … I’m a willing and able special teams player that can also play receiver.”
To find two veteran contributors who can help in a playoff push this late in the season is a rarity, Joseph said.
“We’re very lucky that [Holmes] was available, along with Jamar.” Joseph said. “[They’re] guys that we’ve coached, guys that are healthy. In Week 13, 14 to find veterans that are healthy, that’s always tough. We’re lucky to have those two guys in the fold.”
As the Broncos are continuing their late-season push, Taylor and Holmes — who were playing on playoff longshots — are anxious to contribute.
“When you’re in the playoff hunt, definitely things are at a high intensity,” Holmes said. “But that’s where you want to be. You want to be intense and doing things the right way at all times so that you can get the wins on Sundays and put yourself in a position to keep playing into January.”