ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –For eight games of his fourth season in Denver, running back Knowshon Moreno stood on the sidelines on game day.
From Week 3 through Week 11, Moreno's only touches came on reps as a scout teamer during practice, as he was inactive in eight consecutive contests. But Moreno was undeterred, treating every rep as he would a live snap on a Sunday.
"I think it's an example of being a professional," quarterback Peyton Manning said. "Everybody's on this roster for a reason and to serve a purpose. Knowshon played some earlier in the season and then he was doing some scout team, and I know that's a humbling experience for a guy, but even though he wasn't really put to the test during those weeks but he obviously was in his playbooks and studying his protections."
In the Broncos' 17-9 win against the Kansas City Chiefs, Moreno showed no signs of rust on his first carries in more than two months, rushing for 85 yards on 20 carries and adding four receptions for 26 yards. It was a strong performance that may have surprised fans, but no one who saw his efforts on the practice field was caught off guard.
"I thought he had a very good performance," Head Coach John Fox said. "We kind of expected it. I think his teammates did. I know I did, just how he's gone about his business up until that point. Everybody had great confidence in him and he came through for us."
Moreno, a first-round draft choice in 2009 who started 22 games in his first two seasons with the Broncos, had played in only nine games with just two starts since -- part of which was due to a knee injury that ended his 2011 season after seven games. Despite the dramatic change in his role in the weeks before the trip to Kansas City, Moreno never changed his approach.
"Not necessarily," Moreno said of whether he ever had doubts about his future. "That's not what my mindset really was. My mindset was taking one day at a time and doing what I had to do to step up. That's what it was at the time."
That mindset didn't go unnoticed by his defensive teammates.
"He wasn't forgotten with us," linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. "He's been kicking our tail on defense. That's part of the reason why we've been so good in our run defense. The looks that he's been giving us, it's like, 'Dude, as soon as you get your chance, you're going to explode.' It's good that he stayed humble and he was ready whenever his chance came up. It was great to see that he came out there ready to play. I always believed in him."
After reminding the Broncos of what he's capable of as a runner and receiver despite an extended period without game action, Moreno has raised expectations that he'll deliver similar performances in the weeks to come.
"He had a good week of practice last week and went in there against a good defense and ran the ball well and was sharp in his pass protection, made some good plays in the pass game and that's what we're going to expect out of him every week," quarterback Peyton Manning said. "I think he'll even, hopefully, be better with more repetitions and getting back in the flow. It's a great example for any player to always be ready and take your job seriously. I was impressed with that. I know he gave our team a real boost on Sunday."