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Broncos notes: Risner practices in attempt to stall starting debut of 'The Belly'

GM Paton to scout CU-USC game Saturday. Fangio part of Harbaugh-Harbaugh coaching tree. Tucker and McManus a kicking battle of undrafteds.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Will the game Sunday mark the NFL starting debut of The Belly?

Dalton Risner is trying to push back the event.

>>Video above: Klis & Tell: Broncos hit with another serious injury, lose K.J. Hamler for season

After missing practices Wednesday and Thursday because of a foot injury, Risner, the Broncos’ starting left guard, was back Friday and by all appearances was moving well, at least in the early, media-viewing period. Risner is listed as questionable for the Broncos’ game Sunday against Baltimore but given the blitzes and stunts the Ravens are likely to throw at the Broncos’ offense Sunday, Denver could sorely use the presence of the Wiggins native.

"Everything’s open with Dalton. He could be out. He could dress and be a backup. He could dress and play," said Broncos head coach Vic Fangio.

It’s one thing to have one inexperienced guard against the Ravens, as the Broncos will have with right guard Netane Muti replacing the injured Graham Glasgow, who has been ruled out with a knee injury. It’s another to have two inexperienced guards against the Ravens, as would be the case if Risner can’t play and is replaced by third-round rookie Quinn "The Belly" Meinerz.

Also listed as "questionable" on the Broncos’ final injury report Friday: Running back Melvin Gordon III (ribs/lower leg), defensive ends Shelby Harris (wrist/illness) and Dre’Mont Jones (calf), outside linebacker Andre Mintze (hamstring) and rookie linebacker Baron Browning (back). None of those injuries are expected to prevent those players from playing Sunday.

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos offensive guard Dalton Risner (66) prior to an NFL football game against the New York Jets Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

In-state scouting

Per the University of Colorado, there will be 12 scouts from 10 NFL teams attending the Buffaloes-USC game Saturday in Boulder, including George Paton, Darren Mougey and Dave Bratten from the Broncos. Among the NFL prospects in the game are USC outside linebacker Drake Johnson, receiver Drake London and quarterback Kedon Slovis, and, for the Buffs, inside linebacker Nate Landman, guard Kary Kutsch and defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson.

The two Drakes are projected late-first/second-round picks.

Harbaugh, Fangio, Harbaugh

Fangio’s coaching journey once intersected the Harbaugh brothers. He was a linebackers coach for the Baltimore Ravens and head coach Jim Harbaugh in 2008-09, then went to Stanford to become defensive coordinator for head coach Jim Harbaugh. When Jim Harbaugh became the head coach of the 49ers in 2011, Fangio went with him.

"Jim had planned, and we had already spoken, he had interviewed for some NFL jobs prior to that," Fangio said. "He decided to stay at Stanford. When he would go to the NFL I was going to go with him as a coordinator and he talked me into coming out there a year early."

John Harbaugh is still the Ravens’ head coach. Jim Harbaugh had a successful run with the 49ers and is now head coach at Michigan, his alma mater. Fangio was a defensive coordinator for four years with the 49ers, then four years with the Chicago Bears before he became head coach of the Broncos. Fangio and John Harbaugh match wits against each other for the first time Sunday.

Tucker, McManus an undrafted kick contest

The next kicker to go in the Hall of Fame will be Adam Vinatieri. He was undrafted in 1996 and didn’t get noticed until he competed with the Amsterdam Admirals in what was rebranded as NFL Europe.

Then Baltimore’s Justin Tucker will be the next kicker to have his bust bronzed thanks to his golden toe. He was not only undrafted out of Texas in 2012, he wasn’t signed as a college free agent, waiting until he won a rookie workout audition to compete in training camp.

The Broncos’ Brandon McManus was undrafted in 2013 and before him Matt Prater was undrafted in 2006.

All kickers do is determine whether you win or lose a game, yet none of these great kickers can get drafted so much as the sixth or seventh rounds?

"The hashes are so much different in college," said Broncos’ special teams coordinator Tom McMahon, referring to how significantly wider the hash marks are on a college field compared to the NFL field. "They’re way out so it’s harder to hit a field goal in college than it is in the NFL.

"You can’t judge these guys’ leg strength in college. You’ve got to go watch kickoffs. When I evaluate a kicker I watch their kickoffs, first, because they have to have leg strength, No. 1. You can teach him how to kick a field goal."

Bronco Bits

Fangio said he expects newly signed slot receiver David Moore to play Sunday. Moore spent the first three weeks of this season on the Raiders’ practice squad.

Fangio said he may wait till next week to activate running back Mike Boone, who returned to practice this week for the first time since suffering a quad pull on Aug. 12 during a joint practice at Minnesota.

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