Broncos WR Stokley on the mend from Achilles injury

DENVER (AP) - The red vertical scar peeked through the top of Brandon Stokley's right heel-length sock.

The former Indianapolis Colts receiver unintentionally glanced in the scar's direction whenever he referenced it.

Stokley ruptured his right Achilles' tendon on Dec. 10 at Jacksonville, and had season-ending surgery 10 days later.

The injury, which occurred while he was with the Colts, almost drove him away from football. But he didn't want to wrap up his eight-year career like that and so he signed a one-year deal with Denver in the offseason.

"A lot of teams were really scared of the Achilles," Stokley said.

Including the Colts, who released Stokley on March 2.

"I was willing to listen and see, but I think they think it's going to be a lot longer (recovery time) than I think it's going to be," Stokley said.

Stokley, who was expected to miss six-to-eight months after the surgery, is hoping to be ready by training camp. His main goal is to play in the season opener.

Stokley's not trying to rush the Achilles back too fast. He just started jogging on a treadmill. After that he'll work out on the field and then begin cutting.

"It's feeling good," Stokley said. "I'm just trying to get back into the flow. Over the next few months, that's really my goal -- to get all the strength back in my calf and explosiveness back."

Stokley, 30, was the Colts' No. 3 receiver behind Pro Bowlers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. In 2004, he was part of the first receiving trio in league history to eclipse 1,000 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns. He finished that season with 68 catches for 1,077 yards and 10 TDs.

Although released, Stokley insisted there's no animosity toward the Colts. His only regret was having to watch the Super Bowl against Chicago instead of being on the field.

"It was probably one of the hardest things I've had to do in the NFL," said Stokley, who has 199 catches for 2,829 yards and 22 touchdowns in eight seasons. "I'm grateful to them. There's no ill will from me."

Stokley has been crossing paths in the Denver training room with another banged-up Broncos receiver in Rod Smith. The 36-year-old Smith is recovering from hip surgery in February and is expected to be out four months.

"I've watched him over the years and what he's done has been unbelievable," Stokley said. "I look forward to playing with him."

Not to mention Javon Walker and Brandon Marshall.

"I know all the receivers they have and all are very talented," Stokley said.

He hasn't been told -- or even asked -- what his role will be.

"I'm just trying to get healthy," Stokley said. "That's really my No. 1 goal. Whatever role they have for me, I'm willing to do it."

Stokley has talked to second-year quarterback Jay Cutler, but has yet to catch one of his passes. He left a Pro Bowler in Peyton Manning.

"He was all right," Stokley said with a grin. "I believe Peyton is the best quarterback to ever play the game. To compare someone to Peyton isn't fair to everybody else."

He visited New Orleans before agreeing to the Broncos' offer. Denver also signed running back Travis Henry and tight end Daniel Graham to help out the offense.

"You saw the moves they made in the offseason," Stokley said. "The young quarterback they have: the sky's the limit for the offense. They have all the tools to make it to the Super Bowl."

There was a point after Stokley's injury where he thought about calling it a career. But his doctors assured him he could come back from the ruptured Achilles. Plus there's the motivation factor.

"I really didn't like how I finished last year," Stokley said. "I didn't want to finish my career on that note.

"I'm excited about the new opportunity. Having to prove to yourself again to everybody coming off this injury -- I look forward to the challenge."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)