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Tight end Jake Butt among players to return Sunday to Broncos practice

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Tight end Jake Butt practiced Sunday for the first time since July 20.

The third-year tight end did not participate in the full practice, but his return to the field is a step in the right direction for a player who is recovering from his third ACL tear.

“Yeah, it was,” said Head Coach Vic Fangio when asked if it was nice to see Butt back on the field. “I think he went through — albeit a short portion of the practice — with no setbacks. So that’s good.”

Tight ends Jeff Heuerman (shoulder) and Bug Howard (ankle) also dressed and participated in portions of practice. Heuerman missed Tuesday’s practice and Thursday’s game, and Howard had not practiced since suffering his injury on July 25.

Fangio said the team considered signing another tight end after Austin Fort tore his ACL on Thursday against Seattle, but the Broncos ultimately decided against a move at the position.

“We did, but they don’t grow on trees, like most positions this time of year with 32 teams in camp and 90 guys on everybody’s roster,” Fangio said. “Our tight end position has gotten hit hard, but we still have six [players at the position], albeit a couple of them are limited — Jake being the leader.”

Linebacker Josey Jewell (side) also returned to portions of practice on Sunday after suffering an injury on Aug. 5. Cornerback Bryce Callahan (foot) and outside linebacker Aaron Wallace (hamstring) both missed Thursday’s game but returned to practice, as well.

Cornerbacks Kareem Jackson and Horace Richardson both missed Sunday’s practice with hamstring injuries. Fangio said Jackson “kind of tweaked his hamstring a little bit,” and that the team is being cautious.

Running back Theo Riddick (shoulder), fullback Andy Janovich (pectoral) and linebackers Todd Davis (calf) and Joe Jones (upper arm) also missed practice.

Fangio said Riddick’s injury will “probably drag into the regular season.”

In Janovich’s absence, which reportedly could last six-to-eight weeks, rookie George Aston should see increased reps at the position.

“[Aston]’s been a surprise guy, coming [in] as an undrafted free agent,” Fangio said. “There aren’t many fullbacks out there these days in college or pro football. So there’s not an abundance of them. I think he’s had a nice catch-and-run after the catch the other night. So he’s got a chance.”

Davis, meanwhile, could be close to a return to the field. He has not practiced since suffering the injury on the first day of training camp.

“Everything’s been fine,” Fangio said. “There’s been no potholes along the way. I think we’ll start seeing him out here fairly soon, but it will be a slow process.”

With Davis and Jones out and Jewell returning from injury, Fangio and the Broncos moved safety Jamal Carter to linebacker.

“We’re going to move him to inside linebacker right now,” Fangio said. “Right now it’s temporary, but if he looks good there it will be permanent. It’s two-fold: our numbers have gotten low there and he’s always wanted to play in there. So the timing was good, and he wants to be in there.”

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