ENGLEWOOD - When Ryan Kalil yanks a face mask, he yanks it good.
Derek Wolfe wound up with a case of football whiplash that saved the Denver defense from a big play last week but still left him smarting enough to miss of practice Thursday.
With 5:29 left in the third quarter, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton flipped a pass to running back James Stewart who scooted for a 22-yard gain.
Instead, the center Kalil was caught grabbing and yanking the defensive end Wolfe’s facemask away from the play. The penalty changed a first-and-10 at the Broncos’ 36 to third-and-25 at the Carolina 24 – a 40-yard mistake.
Wolfe came out for a play or two but re-entered on the next series. His neck flared up Thursday and while the Broncos listed him as participating on a limited basis, he wore a baseball cap and not a helmet like the others.
“His neck is sore,’’ said Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak. “He practiced yesterday and it got a little sore on him, so we kind of protected him a little bit today. He took a bunch of the walk-throughs and a bunch of those types of things. We’ll see where he is at tomorrow.”
Wade doesn’t coach to play dirty
After four hits to quarterback Cam Newton’s helmet last week, Bronco players have had to defend themselves against claims of dirty play all week. It was Wade Phillips’ turn Thursday.
“I think it’s ridiculous,’’ said Phillips, the Broncos’ defensive coordinator. “We’ve never taught that. It’s never happened before.
“We actually—if there are penalties that should’ve been called in the game, we get on our players even if they weren’t called. We get on our players because we don’t want penalties. Nobody wants penalties. Penalties can cost you games, so whether it’s a holding penalty or illegal chuck or any of those things, you’ve got to play the game penalty-free if you can, because it gives you a better chance to win. There’s no way that you would want those things to happen. And it almost cost us in the game.’’
He was talking about Darian Stewart’s hit on Newton that negated an intentional grounding penalty that would have brought on at least third-and-20 from the Carolina 37 instead of second-and-10 from its 47.
Fullback Andy Janovich aside, the season opener was a tough on Broncos rookies Justin Simmons, Devontae Booker and Riley Dixon.
The tailback Booker fumbled away his first carry and missed a blitz pickup that turned what may have been a touchdown pass into an interception. Dixon did not punt well.
Kubiak was asked how Simmons played as the nickel safety.
“He played young,’’ Kubiak said. “If you really look at the game, you look at Justin, you look at Book, you look at our punter, you look at young players that we’re counting on a bunch, and they had some struggles in the game.
They made some mistakes in the game. We’re counting on those guys becoming players. The only way they become players is if we continue to push them through and put them in position. All three of those guys played a little young last week and have to be better this week.”
Five weeks removed from suffering a fractured elbow, backup receiver Bennie Fowler again participated in individual drills Thursday but not in team drills. …
Backup tight end Jeff Heuerman was a full participant Thursday after missing considerable time with a variety of injuries.
“A lot of guys come out here and practice to get ready to play on Sunday,’’ Kubiak said. “For Jeff, this is a big audition. Hey, I’m back. I’m healthy. So far, so good for two days.” …
Offensive lineman Ty Sambrailo was a full participant Wednesday, but an ankle injury dropped him to limited on Thursday.
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