ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –Defensive end Elvis Dumervil's worst fears were put to rest by an MRI Monday.
After suffering a shoulder injury that forced him out of Sunday's 36-14 win over the Panthers, the negative result of the test was music to Dumervil's ears.
"That was huge," Dumervil said. "It's a blessing, man. I'm able to try to rehab from it and get better. There was no major tear, so that was a good thing."
Dumervil was inactive for Wednesday's practice, when Head Coach John Fox called the defensive end's status day-to-day.
"Not being a doctor, I just rely on our training staff and medical staff," Fox said. "It's not a prolonged time, supposedly."
Despite also sitting out Thursday's practice, Dumervil is still hopeful that he can practice on Friday and prove to himself and the trainers that he will be ready for Sunday's battle with the Chargers.
"My goal is to play," Dumervil said. "That's what I have to look towards tomorrow, coming out and having a good practice to get ready."
As he looks to progress toward getting cleared for a return to the field, Dumervil has worked with Head Athletic Trainer Steve "Greek" Antonopulos on his recovery.
"Just taking it day by day, getting better," Dumervil said. "Rehab with 'Greek' has been tremendous. I'm looking forward to tomorrow to try to get something out of it."
In Dumervil's absence after his injury against Carolina, his fellow defensive linemen stepped up in a big way, helping Denver tally seven sacks on the afternoon. One of those sacks came from defensive end Robert Ayers, who will be called upon to step up if Dumervil is unavailable. Ayers has the confidence of his teammates, who have seen his strong play in practice throughout the season.
"Robert has been solid all along, he just hasn't had many opportunities," Dumervil said. "We believe in Robert and what he can do, and obviously he displayed that as well. However I can contribute and continue to go forward, that's what we'll do."
GATES HAS BRONCOS' FULL ATTENTION
No quarterback-tight end tandem in NFL history has accounted for more touchdown passes than Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates.
Two of those touchdowns came in Week 6 against the Broncos, when Gates finished with six catches for 81 yards. With 80 career touchdowns, Gates' next touchdown reception will tie him for first place in Chargers history. On Sunday, stopping Gates, who has four touchdowns in his past four games, will be a major point of emphasis for the Broncos defense.
"He's a really good player," Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "We do what we can to slow the other team's weapons down. Certainly, he's one of their primary weapons and we'll do our best. We had every intention of slowing him down in the first game and he got loose a couple times and did some damage. It'll be important that we limit that—limit his effectiveness, kind of put a lid on things. He's a heck of a player. It seems like we have (a good tight end) every week and this week's no different."
So far this season, Denver has seen some of the game's top tight ends, including Rob Gronkowski of New England, Jimmy Graham of New Orleans and Tony Gonzalez of Atlanta. But according to cornerback Champ Bailey, Gates is the best one his team will see.
"Tight ends are special," Bailey said. "If you look across the board on any team, they have one or two that are really good. They create matchup problems and we're aware of it. Here comes the best in the game coming up this week. We're aware of that; we've got some things to take care of him. But you can't shut them down completely. They're the closest to the quarterback most of the time, so it's the easier to get the ball to them."
And Bailey's not the only Broncos defender who considers Gates the league's biggest threat at the tight end position.
"Probably the most dangerous tight end in football," linebacker Von Miller said. "You've got the guys up in New England, but he's definitely up there."
D WELCOMES BACK WILLIAMS
With another defensive touchdown Sunday against the Panthers to go along with a season-high seven sacks, the Broncos showed off a variety of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball.
That list became even longer on Monday, as linebacker D.J. Williams returned from a nine-game suspension. Williams -- who led the Broncos in tackles in each of the past three seasons and has finished with 100 or more tackles five times in his career -- gives Denver yet another playmaker for opposing offenses to worry about.
"It makes us more explosive," Dumervil said of Williams' return. "He is athletic, he is smart and he is a great athlete. It's huge. I think we can do a lot more different things. We're excited. Having D.J. back obviously brings us more depth. I think guys have been playing at a high level, and having a guy like that come on board, it says a lot of good things to us."
Williams, who was drafted in 2004, is tied with Bailey as the team's longest-tenured player. Seeing No. 55 back in action at practice this week was a welcome sight to Bailey,
"He's the only guy on the team that's been here as long as me," Bailey said. "So we're like brothers. I've been waiting for this moment all year because I know he wants to be out there. I remember talking to him throughout his whole suspension, he was so anxious to get back out here. I'm just glad he's here."
After sitting out nine games, Williams knows he has work ahead of him as he looks to fit back into the team's defensive scheme. The role he's asked to fulfill will depend on how quickly he can get back up to speed.
"D.J.'s getting back into things and working his way back into playing shape and getting a lot of reps in practice," Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "It's been a while since he's been able to work with us. We'll kind of bring him a long and see how quickly we'll be able to plug him in and utilize him in some capacity."
Though the nature of Williams' responsibilities remains unclear, Bailey has no doubt that his return will improve the defense.
"He's a tremendous talent," Bailey said. "Any time you can add talent like that and experience, it's definitely going to help our football team."