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Buckhalter takes lead role in first depth chart

By: AP
By: AP

One of six players competing for Denver's starting tailback job, Correll Buckhalter greeted the news that he had been listed on top of the Broncos' first depth chart with a shrug.

"I don't pay any attention to it," Buckhalter said between training camp practices Tuesday. "I didn't even know my name was there first. I'm just coming out here trying to get my job done - and that's to make plays on offense."

The man who put him there, coach Josh McDaniels, has described his first chart as "fluid" and said at this point of training camp, he has no fixed starters, only competitors. The release of the team's preliminary depth chart coincided with the pregame informational material detailing the Broncos' exhibition opener Friday in San Francisco.

Still, as McDaniels himself has said, you have to start somewhere, and Buckhalter is starting out on top because of a strong camp to this point.

"He's got a great, great burst, maybe our fastest back," McDaniels said. "He's very good in pass protection, catches the ball extremely well, comes from a program where they don't accept anything other than winning. Buck's been a great influence on some of our younger players. So, there's really nothing that disappoints you about Correll and he shows up every day, ready to work."

Buckhalter joined the Broncos as a free agent after eight seasons in Philadelphia, where he was the primary backup to Brian Westbrook, one of the league's best running backs.

He said his principal motivation in coming to Denver was the chance to "help this team get back to what it's used to - and that's winning and going to the playoffs and the Super Bowl."

As eager as he is to compete for playing time, Buckhalter said the depth in the Broncos backfield makes it possible the team could use a running-back-by-committee approach this season.

Others fighting for playing time include fellow free agent LaMont Jordan, who missed a second day of practice with an undisclosed injury, top draft pick Knowshon Moreno, holdovers Peyton Hillis and Ryan Torain and free agent Darius Walker.

"We're a family in this backfield, but we're competing and when you compete, that makes everybody better," Buckhalter said. "We have a great group of backs here, very talented and it's going to make defenses hard to match up against us. We just keep pressing daily, trying to get better. I think the sky is the limit for us."

BUZZ CUT: Rookie quarterback Tom Brandstater displayed the worst-looking haircut he had ever received in good humor.

Part of initiation rites at Broncos training camp, Brandstater had the top of his head shaved off, leaving a circular shock of brown hair encircling his head in a Bozo-the-Clown look.

"I don't know what to call it, I think it's a 75-year-old man's haircut who's lost a little bit on the top. But no gray, it's all still brown," Brandstater said.

Brandstater said he got the unsightly buzz cut from a group of offensive linemen about 15 minutes before the start of Tuesday morning's practice.

"They said either get it now or get your eyebrows cut later, so I chose this haircut," Brandstater said. "I went willingly and hopefully, my eyebrows stay intact."

Brandstater was not alone. The mad hair clippers also got to rookie punter Britton Colquitt and rookie center Blake Schlueter.

Colquitt displayed a ramshackle pattern of haircutting that left his head looking like a checkerboard. It was so bad that he kept his helmet on throughout the morning practice.

"I'm trying to compete and trying to win a job and I don't need to be thinking about my hair," Colquitt said. "All day today, I kept my helmet on and it was awful. It wasn't that fun."

He had no plans to come down too hard on his "barber," long snapper Lonie Paxton.

"He gives me good snaps, so I can't really argue with him for doing it," Colquitt said.

Well put, rookie.

OVER THE WEDGE: The Broncos' kickoff return units look different this summer after NFL owners approved a rule this offseason banning wedge-blocking in hopes of avoiding the type of spinal injury sustained by Buffalo's Kevin Everett against Denver in 2007.

With no more three- and four-man wedges, technique now trumps brute strength on kickoff returns.

"You can still double-team and I think that's what you're going to probably see happen in the league," coach Josh McDaniels said. "So, it puts a little bit more pressure on some of the blocking schemes because you can't really send a returner behind a wall of four or five guys.

"Everybody's playing under the same set of rules. It's going to be interesting how much that changes the statistics and the return game in general, if the returns end up being lesser or greater because of it we're not sure," McDaniels added. "But I know we're working extremely hard to try to get comfortable with that, and I'm sure everyone in the league is facing the same challenge."

EXTRA POINTS: RT Ryan Harris, who appeared to have suffered a serious shoulder injury Monday, returned to practice Tuesday and had no restrictions. ... RB LaMont Jordan skipped the morning workout. He hurt his right knee Sunday. ... Other veterans who sat out in the morning were WR Brandon Stokley and CB Champ Bailey.

(Copyright Associated Press, All Rights Reserved)


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