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Bronco notes: Oft-cut defensive linemen challenged next with Mahomes and Chiefs

Bouye, Hamler, Fant, Jones among Broncos returning from injury Sunday.
Credit: AP
Denver Broncos defensive end Shelby Harris (96) celebrates blocking a field goal attempt by the Tennessee Titans during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Patrick Mahomes meet The Uncuttables.

Denver’s first line of defense against the Kansas City Chiefs superstar quarterback Sunday afternoon at Empower Field at Mile High is a three-man testament to resiliency.

Shelby Harris, Mike Purcell and DeShawn Williams, the Broncos’ starting defensive line against New England last week, has been cut a combined 26 times.

“The Uncuttables,’’ Harris said in a Zoom media conference Friday when asked to come up with a nickname for his overachieving group.

Harris has the greatest pedigree of the trio as he was a seventh-round pick in the seven-round 2014 draft. Purcell and Williams went undrafted. Harris has also only been cut six times – four times by the Oakland Raiders, and once by the Jets and Cowboys before finding his home with the Broncos in 2017.

Purcell and Williams have each been cut 10 times. Purcell was cut three times by the 49ers, once by the Rams, Bears and Panthers, twice by the Patriots and twice by the Chiefs before catching on with the Broncos last year.

Williams was cut three times by the Bengals, four times in three separate stints with the Broncos and once by the Dolphins, Colts and Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League.

“I think the one thing that we all share is that fight to just not give up,’’ Harris said. “No matter how bad the situation is – it could be 4th-and-one, it could be 3rd-and-35, we still have the same mindset. … Nothing’s ever going to be given to us no matter how hard we work for it, so we have to go and take it.

“If you don’t have the traditional way of four years, a new contract, you kind of have to have that underdog mentality where you’re going to just keep fighting.”

Perhaps, Broncos head coach Vic Fangio would rather have three, first-round draft picks playing up front. Then again, "The Uncuttables" may have something the first-rounders never will.

“They’ve handle adversity,’’ Fangio said. “They’ve had different parts of their career where they’ve been told they weren’t good enough. … They know what it’s like to be not on a roster at this point in the season. They’re hungry. They got a chip on their shoulder and they like the way they’re playing and they want to keep playing.

“It’s always good when a guy has had that feeling and been in that position, they tend to appreciate it more and play with a little more intensity.’’

Bouye, Fant, Dre’Mont, Hamler return

It can’t be a coincidence that so many injured Broncos are returning for the game against the Chiefs, an all-hands-on-deck opponent. Top cornerback A.J. Bouye returns after missing the previous four games with a shoulder injury. Tight end Noah Fant is back after missing one game with a high ankle sprain. Defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones is back after missing three games with a knee strain. And receiver KJ Hamler returns from hi second hamstring injury that has caused him to miss three games total.

The Broncos will lose returner Diontae Spencer to a shoulder injury and outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu for a third consecutive game with a quad injury. And running backs coach Curtis Modkins will miss his second consecutive game as he continues to quarantine with COVID-19 even though he has no more symptoms.

Fullback/tight end Andrew Beck is on the doubtful side of questionable with a hamstring. Tight end Jake Butt and left guard Dalton Risner are listed as questionable. Risner appears to be leaning on the probable side of questionable.

If Beck and Butt can’t play, the Broncos would figure to call up Jeremy Cox for a second straight game from the practice squad. This time Cox would play fullback. Also, Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur indicated there’s a strong chance Fant and rookie Albert Okwuegbunam – both pass-catching mismatches – will be on the field at the same time for a few plays.

Spencer may be the most difficult to replace, as he is a sure-handed punt and kickoff returner. Candidates to fill in are rookies Tyrie Cleveland and Hamler, and veterans Bryce Callahan and DaeSean Hamilton.

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