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Highlands Ranch's Mike Purcell competes for Broncos' roster spot in final preseason game vs. Arizona

Veteran defensive tackle has chance to make big-team roster for first time since 2016.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Imagine the nerves, thoughts and emotions stirring inside an NFL hopeful this week.

After 2 ½ months of offseason team work, then another six weeks of training camp practices and  preseason games, the league’s final roster cuts will begin Friday morning and conclude by 2 p.m. Saturday.

Currently employing 87 players, the Broncos’ roster will be trimmed to 53. Here today, gone tomorrow.

Broncos defensive tackle Mike Purcell can handle this unsettling week better than most. He’s been a bubble guy for going on seven consecutive years, ever since he joined the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted rookie out of Wyoming in 2013.

“I’m going to treat it just like I have the past four weeks now,’’ Purcell said in a sit-down interview this week with 9NEWS. “I’ll just go out there and play and do what I can and hopefully my actions can speak for what I can do as a player and what I can do to benefit to this team.”

> The Broncos and Cardinals meet at 7 p.m. Thursday on KTVD Channel 20 (657 or 5 on Xfinity), 9NEWS.com, the all-new 9NEWS mobile app and 9NEWS streaming platforms.

Raised in Denver and Highlands Ranch, Purcell is a 50-50 guy again this week, only this time with his hometown Broncos. Purcell has made the season-opening 53-man roster twice – in 2015 and 2016 with the San Francisco 49ers.

He hasn’t made the big team since, as the previous two years he’s bounced between the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs.  

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Credit: 9NEWS weather

He’s got a legit chance to stick with the Broncos, though, especially after Zach Kerr was released earlier this week.

“Coming out of college, I signed with San Francisco as a free agent, and my first game was here against Denver,’’ Purcell said. “That was kind of cool. First game against my hometown team and now six, seven years later I’m playing for the home team and it would definitely be a dream come true.’’

It appears it’s between Purcell and DeShawn Williams, who spent some NFL time with the Cincinnati Bengals, for the team’s sixth and final defensive line spot.

The hometown kid has a chance to stick for two reasons. One, he’s played very well in the preseason. Then again, Purcell has almost always played well and yet this is his seventh team in two years.

“If I had the answers I would have stuck somewhere a little longer than I have,’’ he said. “But I just want to go out there and play football and play to the best of my ability and if the chips fall in place, so be it. If not hopefully I can bounce around somewhere else and stick somewhere else.’’

Credit: KUSA

The second reason Purcell could make it is his familiarity with head coach Vic Fangio’s defensive system. Fangio was the 49ers’ defensive coordinator when Purcell broke in on the team’s practice squad in 2013 and most of 2014. They reunited with the Chicago Bears for a brief time in 2017.

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“I’m really comfortable with Vic and his defense,’’ Purcell said. “It’s what I learned when I first came into the league so if I can stick to it – coming in as a rookie your mind is going 100 miles an hour. So for me, I’m real familiar since six years ago. I remember the defense like it was yesterday and so hopefully it works to my benefit.’’

Said Fangio: “He can play anywhere along the line. Because he can do it mentally, he’s strong enough. He’s not ideally suited to be an end, but he can do it in a pinch.”

Should Purcell make it, he could rival offensive Jake Rodgers as remarkable stories of perseverance. Rodgers has made the 53-man roster once – the first week of the 2016 season with the New York Giants – and never since.

Purcell and Rodgers will have one more chance to prove they belong with the big team when they play tonight (7:05 p.m. kickoff, Channel 20) in the Broncos’ final preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.

Purcell will be wearing No. 98, the 6-foot-3, 328-pound big man in the middle of the defensive front.

“I’m always going to try hard,’’ Purcell said. “Give it 100 percent every time I can. They tell you to keep your head up, but I’m going to put my head down and I’m going to work. I’ll be quiet but hopefully my actions on the field will speak volumes.”

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> The Broncos and Cardinals meet at 7 p.m. Thursday on KTVD Channel 20 (657 or 5 on Xfinity), 9NEWS.com, the all-new 9NEWS mobile app and 9NEWS streaming platforms.



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