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Bell fighting for playing time again

Arnie Stapleton
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado
Denver Broncos running back Mike Bell pulls in a pass during the morning session at the team's football training camp at Broncos' headquarters in southeast Denver on Friday, Aug. 3, 2007. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP | AP

ENGLEWOOD ” A year ago Mike Bell was an undrafted rookie climbing the depth chart on his way to being the No. 1 running back. This year, he’s in a fierce competition to be the No. 2.

Bell was supplanted as the starter by Tatum Bell by the season opener last year but earned enough playing time to rush for 677 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Broncos traded Tatum Bell to Detroit in the Dre’ Bly deal but acquired free agent Travis Henry to be their top tailback.



“I understand that this is a business, and I didn’t have much experience so they wanted to get an experienced guy,” Mike Bell said. “It will be good to learn from him as well, because Travis has done a lot of good things in his career and he’s a good back to learn from.”

Bell insisted that Henry’s arrival didn’t change his approach.



“Not really. I always come in with the attitude of trying to be the best, so regardless of who’s there, I’m still going to work the same.”

The Broncos also moved Cecil Sapp from fullback to tailback to challenge Bell for the job as Henry’s primary backup.

Again, Bell insists he doesn’t mind the logjam in the backfield.



“I like competition,” Bell said. “I think it brings the best out of me.”

He said he wasn’t at all surprised that he wasn’t automatically the No. 2 running back behind Henry.

“No, because like coach said there’s nothing set in stone. I’m not too concerned about the depth chart right now, you know. I’m just going out there working hard every day, not really worrying about my circumstances right now, just doing what I know how to do,” he said.

At any rate, Bell thinks that one day he’ll be the No. 1 ball carrier again.

“I don’t like settling,” he said. “I’m not going to settle until I’m No. 1. Regardless of who’s starting, I’m still going to be pushing the dude until I’m at that spot. Travis is a good guy to learn from, so I’m glad I’m learning from someone like him, as well as Cecil.”

One thing Bell wouldn’t venture a guess about is whether the Broncos are trying to push Bell by putting him in direct competition for playing time with Sapp.

“I don’t know. Cecil is a good back. They put them there to get the job done. But I can’t worry about that, the only thing I have to worry about is getting back on the field,” Bell said.

MIDDLE MAN: D.J. Williams said he’s adjusting fine in his move from strong side linebacker to the middle.

“Yes, definitely, especially with 16 minicamp practices we’ve had and now we’re down here and had five or six days with the pads on, you get a lot more comfortable,” he said Friday.

A handful of players are trying to win his old “Sam” linebacker job, and Williams said he’s confident whoever emerges will be a big contributor.

“You know they’re all doing pretty well right now. I’m confident in whoever they put next to me that they’re going to get the job done. They’re all great athletes.”

Among those players are Nate Webster, D.D. Lewis and Warrick Holdman, who was released from the hospital and returned to team headquarters Friday after suffering a spinal cord concussion at Thursday’s practice.

“It’s not like we just work with each other. We’re a family,” Williams said. “A few guys went and visited him yesterday. We sat up and we talked to him, so he’s fine.”

Williams said he was excited to learn he would replace Al Wilson, who was released, at middle linebacker in new defensive boss Jim Bates’ scheme.

“Especially for this defense, the middle linebacker is the playmaker. Especially if you get some good, big guys up front and you put two guys on the ends, you’re going to make plays,” Williams said.

The Broncos beefed up their defensive line, bringing in several big tackles, chief among them the 250-pound Sam Adams.

“He’s going to help tremendously. You can tell the difference between when he’s in there and when he’s not,” Williams said. “I talked to him the other day and he said, ‘My job is to be dirty, keep them off you. I’m not here to get sacks and be praised. I just want to do my job,’ and that’s the type of guy you want to play with.”

Williams is adjusting to being more of a vocal leader, making the defensive calls and aligning the unit.

“It’s a daily struggle, daily grind especially from my three previous years. I wasn’t a team leader, but luckily I got guys out there like (John) Lynch, Sam Adams, Gerard Warren and Champ (Bailey),” Williams said. “You know those guys don’t need to be led when you’ve got guys like that they help me out.”

EXTRA POINTS: WR Brandon Stokley (thigh), G Ben Hamilton (head), RB Paul Smith (groin) and DT Marcus Thomas (calf) joined the growing list of injured players. WR Javon Walker also pulled up favoring a leg after a long pass play, but Shanahan said Walker didn’t pull a muscle and Walker seemed to be moving fine by the afternoon. Before he pulled up, Walker made a nice catch and turned toward CB Champ Bailey and told him, ” I got you. I got you, man.” Bailey smiled. “I thought I’d give you one,” he replied. … DT Sam Adams returned to practice Friday after missing one day when his surgically-repaired right knee began bothering him. He said Friday it felt “like a million bucks.” But you won’t find him doing back flips like rookie DT Marcus Thomas did on Day 1. “I don’t back flip. I do the earthquake shake,” said Adams, who tips the scales at 350 pounds. … WR Rod Smith tested his surgically-repaired hip again by running for several minutes after the morning workout.


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