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Broncos notes: Von to bring along knee brace in case pregame workout goes well Sunday in Houston

Austin Schlottmann to get first NFL start at right guard. Ja'Wuan James still a question mark.
Credit: AP
Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) gives a thumbs up tp fans prior to an NFL preseason football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The way it works in the NFL, when a team reports an injured player is a game-time decision, 99.9 percent of the time the team and the player know well in advance whether it’s a go or a no go.

The team just wants to wait till game time before announcing the decision on whether or not a player will play so the opponent can’t adjust its strategy till the final minute. As if. In the NFL, opponents  always have a plan B strategy. But all teams follow the same drill, anyway.

An exception? Von Miller has always been a .1 percenter. When healthy and in a groove, the Broncos’ outside linebacker has been better than 99.9 percent of the NFL’s defensive players for much of his career.

It’s fitting, thus, that Miller’s playing status Sunday against the Houston Texans is truly a game-time decision.

“I’m going to do the same thing I did last week,’’ Miller said at his locker Friday afternoon.

Last week was a game-time decision. Miller had played in 95 consecutive games until the Broncos’ 23-20 win against the Chargers last Sunday in quarterback Drew Lock’s NFL debut. Miller worked out pre-game with strength-and-conditioning coach Loren Landow. There were on-field, one-on-one tests against inactive right tackle Ja’Wuan James.

The hope going in was the pregame workout would give Miller confidence he could play against Phillip Rivers and the Chargers. Getting to that 100-game streak milestone was among Miller’s motivating factors.

The opposite occurred. He didn’t feel right and he didn’t play.

Later, he said he cried “grown-man tears,” because he couldn’t play.

Miller practiced on a limited basis this week, but he didn’t seem to seriously push the left knee that has bothered him all season to various degrees. He developed tendonitis in his left knee during training camp but he had played through it. The tendonitis is still there, but he said it’s no longer an issue compared to the soreness brought on by a sprained MCL in his same knee.

Miller said two doctors told him it’s a 1- to 3-week injury. It’s closing in on two weeks since he tweaked the knee at Buffalo while pass-rushing quarterback Josh Allen.

One reason why the Broncos hope Miller can play is the team’s other starting edge rusher, Malik Reed, is highly questionable to play because of shoulder and ankle issues.

Miller is bringing along a full brace for his left knee in case he does play. He played most of the 2014 with a brace on his surgically repaired right knee.

Schlottmann replaces Leary

Starting right guard Ron Leary has been ruled out of the game at Houston with a concussion. Schlottman has played 10 offensive snaps in his career – 9 last week after Leary was concussed.

Undrafted out of TCU last year, Schlottmann spent his entire rookie season on the Broncos’ practice squad. A high school teammate of Broncos’ star receiver Courtland Sutton at Brenham High School in Texas, Schlottman has played in all 12 games for the Broncos this year, mostly as a special teams blocker.

What does Schlottmann have going for him, besides good size at 6-foot-6, 300-pound and the versatility to play center and guard?

“We’ll find out,’’ said head coach Vic Fangio. “… We expect him to go in there and do well.”

James mystery

Many signs point to Ja’Wuan James finally playing and starting at right tackle Sunday in Houston.

Except for this: He is again listed as questionable on the final injury report. Why is he questionable after practicing fully two straight weeks and more than a month after he’s been medically cleared?

“I just don’t want to put him out there if he’s not going to play well,’’ Fangio said. “We’ll see how he shows up tomorrow and Sunday.”

If James starts, he will be spelled for a series here and there by Elijah Wilkinson.  If James can’t go, Wilkinson would get his 11th start at right tackle.

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