Booker to undergo surgery.
The Denver running back will have surgery Friday to repair a fracture in his wrist and will miss at least six weeks.
Jamaal Charles bowled the football across the turf, its oblong ends bouncing along the damp grass.
Devontae Booker, wearing a Tshirt and shorts, scooped up the ball and then fired a spiral back to Charles. Catching the ball is off limits for Booker as he prepares for surgery Friday on a fractured wrist, but this makeshift version of catch helped him stay close to the action as the Broncos opened training camp Thursday morning.
Charles, who practiced with a bulky brace over his right knee, was limited during the opening day of training camp. The plan, coach Vance Joseph said, is to bring the former Kansas City Chiefs star along slowly, though Charles has been fully cleared in his return from multiple knee surgeries last November. Booker is expected to miss six weeks with the fractured wrist he suffered late in organized team activities.
The running back competition is open for business. Booker’s injury and Charles’ limitations have opened the door for the rest of a group full of players who believe they have plenty to prove.
“I feel like it’s an open opportunity for all of us, not just myself,” said De’Angelo Henderson, the rookie in a running back room stocked with veterans. “We’ll see what happens the next few days. Hopefully (Booker) recovers quick because we need him. He’s a high talent.”
It can be hard for running backs to stand out in the early days of training camp. An absence of pads means it can be hard to get a bead on who is truly slamming into holes and breaking away from would-be tackles. Still, C.J. Anderson was easy to spot Thursday, and not only because he was the only player wearing a hoodie under his practice jersey as the sun beat down on the grounds at Broncos headquarters.
Joseph said Wednesday that Anderson is in his best shape “in three or four years,” a sentiment the running back agreed with after his first practice. His highlights included a tiptoe touchdown catch on a pass from Paxton Lynch in the corner of the end zone during red zone work.
“I did some things this offseason that were introduced to me, and whether I liked it or didn’t like it, I just kept going with it and kept pushing,” Anderson said. “I didn’t do something for two weeks and then stop. I just kept going with it through the whole offseason. I’m definitely in the best shape I’ve been in in a long time, so I’m excited about that.”
Anderson suffered a torn meniscus in his knee during the Broncos’ Week 7 victory over the Houston Texans last year and missed the rest of the season. The injury came just as he was finding his stride and after he had already rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown against the Texans. His offseason work, he said, was designed with an eye on longevity.
“I got to look at it like it’s going to be 16-week grind,” Anderson said. “Don’t take it for granted. I sat back for nine weeks and realized how much I love it and how much I took a lot of this for granted thinking, ‘You made a couple plays, you’re going to be around.’ Can’t do that. Got to play like every play is your last. It’s just a different mentality and mind-set for myself this year.”
Anderson took the lead Thursday with Bernard Pierce, Juwan Thompson and Henderson also seeing their share of repetitions. Andy Janovich, a fullback from Nebraska, is the other back on the team’s training camp roster.
“I’m trying to maximize everything I get,” said Henderson, a sixth-round pick from Coastal Carolina in this year’s NFL draft. “I felt like I did pretty good Day One. Helmets, running around and getting the blood flowing, we’ll see what happens when we get going the next (few) days.”
Anderson said it was a goal for the running back group to stay healthy during camp. It’s a group that quickly became thinner because of Booker’s injury. To that end, and with the uncertainty surrounding Charles — who played in a total of only eight games the past two seasons — the Broncos brought veteran Stevan Ridley to the facility for a workout Thursday.