ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Two days after the Broncos' season ended with a Super Bowl XLVIII defeat, defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson said he "should be ready" for organized team activities.
But with an injury as significant as the dislocated hip he suffered at New England on Nov. 24 of last year, expectation doesn't always meet reality. Vickerson has been relegated to the sideline, and is now operating under a new timetable: pushing toward training camp and to be ready for the Week 1 game with the Indianapolis Colts.
"I hope so," Vickerson said.
He cleared a significant hurdle last Friday, when he said he passed "the sports test" during an examination at Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Vail, clearing him to move around in athletic drills. The next step will be rehabilitating himself back into football shape.
"I'm moving a little bit, and (can) start running a little bit. So [Tuesday], I ran a little bit," he said. "The treatment guys, they're making a plan for me every day and they're pushing me to the limit. So I've been working hard with them ... That's all I've been doing, is putting in the hard work every day."
The progress is profound given where he was a few months ago. Vickerson said he was on crutches until "about 14 weeks" ago. His limited mobility then -- and through last Friday -- led to some concern about his weight, since he was unable to do proper conditioning drills he would perform when healthy.
"I don't think I gained too much weight. But I'm right at 330 (pounds)," Vickerson said. "That's where I left off when I was playing last year.
"(I) got a little flabby here and there," he added, "but it's getting back. Luke Richesson (and the strength and conditioning staff), they're getting me in check and keeping me right."
Take an inside look as the Broncos took the field for their first practice of OTAs Wednesday.
In the middle of Vickerson's time on crutches, he joined the team for the Super Bowl. For him, that was the most difficult day of his recovery -- being powerless to watch as the defense, battered by injuries, held up for nearly a half, but then buckled and collapsed.
"Not being out there with my guys. That's one of the most frustrating things man, when you work that hard and put in the work to get you to that point, and you can't play for the ultimate goal that you want to set for yourself, and we set for the team as a unit, was to play in the Super Bowl," he said. "And we've got to put the work in this year to get back to that point."
Given the rehabilitation that remains ahead of him, it's doubtful any player will work harder to reach that. And just being able to contribute isn't enough; Vickerson will know that he's back when he can push back against more than one offensive lineman at a time.
"Pushing guys -- I'm holding up 700 pounds sometimes on the double teams," he said. "I get to that point and I'll be good."
Ideally, he wouldn't have to face as many double-teams in 2014 as in previous seasons. By the postseason, Terrance Knighton was a dominant force, and 2013 first-round pick Sylvester Williams had matured, assumed Vickerson's spot in the starting lineup.
Williams' growth has impressed Vickerson.
"Right now he's becoming more of himself in his role. He's learning the plays more and being more fast and playing with and identifying blocks well," Vickerson said. "That's all you can ask from the young guys, to have this transition go from one level to the next. So he's been doing a good job so far."
Williams became a solid complement to Knighton, which could give him the inside track on a starting role. Given the Broncos' liberal rotation of defensive tackles, Vickerson should see plenty of snaps, when healthy, even if he's listed on the depth chart as a second teamer.
Vickerson believes that any personal fretting about his role will recede once he gets back on the field.
"I'm putting the work in to the point where I can come out and I can do the things I did when I left off," he said. "And as long as I put the work in, my anxiety level is probably going to go down and be at ease a little bit.
"But at the same time, just getting back on the field and moving around a little bit more, and just being that dominant Vick that I can be, just throwing my weight around on some guys. I'll be alright."