About 90 minutes before Monday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs, eight Denver Broncos who practiced all week and have aspirations of performing on “Monday Night Football” will be told they can’t play. In the NFL, each team can dress 45 players on game day. There are 53 players on the roster, so eight must be declared inactive. If a team has a third quarterback — Denver is carrying two — he can be one of the eight inactive players. The third quarterback can dress and play if there are injuries. The rest of the inactive players are not in uniform. Denver’s inactive players usually watch from the press box during home games, which means they are further removed from the game. “It is tough,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “I understand why the rule is enforced. But it’s always tough to tell a guy who has worked throughout the week.” Shanahan said the toughest time he had picking inactive players was Denver’s two Super Bowls for the 1997 and 1998 seasons. When asked which players he deactivated for a Super Bowl stood out in his mind, he answered “everybody.” “You got guys who can’t dress in the Super Bowl who have worked with your team and all they want to do is dress out and be part of the team,” Shanahan said. “You’d like them to dress out and still not play, but rules are rules.” Green Bay made a decision with its inactive list before Super Bowl XXXII that helped Denver win its first championship. The Packers deactivated defensive linemen Paul Frase and Jermaine Smith. After defensive end Gabe Wilkins suffered a knee injury in the first quarter, the Packers had only six healthy defensive linemen and they were eventually worn out by running back Terrell Davis and Denver’s offensive line. Shanahan knows all about being second-guessed for his inactive list. In Denver’s first game this season at Miami, he had running back Ron Dayne and cornerbacks Roc Alexander and Karl Paymah inactive. He activated rookie kickoff specialist Paul Ernster. Ditto fifth receiver Todd Devoe, even though Denver used few three-receiver sets. When Mike Anderson suffered a rib injury in the first quarter and Denver lost three cornerbacks in the third quarter, it had no depth at running back and cornerback. Safety Sam Brandon played cornerback most of the third quarter. Ernster was cut this week and brought back to the practice squad. In Denver’s first two games, Ernster’s presence made Shanahan’s job of picking inactive players more challenging. Shanahan already had to reserve roster spots for kicker Jason Elam, punter Todd Sauerbrun and long snapper Mike Leach. “When you have a snapper, you have a punter, then all of a sudden you look at the fieldgoal kicker and a kickoff guy, well, that’s four guys,” Shanahan said. “You have to take away from somewhere. Fortyfive guys isn’t a lot of guys.” The decision on who is inactive can be easy. Defensive end Trevor Pryce was inactive for 14 games last year because he had a back injury and the Broncos didn’t want to put him on injured reserve, which would have ended his season. One of the main reasons the NFL makes a team choose 45 of 53 players to be active on game day is injury balance. A team that has a handful of injuries will still have 45 healthy players, just like a team with no injuries. Sometimes a young player who is buried on the depth chart is an easy choice to be inactive. Rookie tight end Wesley Duke is on the roster because the Broncos like his potential, but he is raw and might not play this season. He has been inactive for the first two games. Other times, a game plan can dictate who is inactive. A team can activate a receiver over a tight end if it plans to spread the field and pass often. Shanahan said he usually looks at the opponent’s inactive list before the game and tries to get some information. A team that has four tight ends active and an extra receiver inactive might be planning to run the ball more. Or it might be engaging in gamesmanship. “All of a sudden they’re using four wides the whole game,” Shanahan said. Whatever the reason, it is not easy for the player who won’t play. Brandon was inactive the first five games last season even though he was healthy. He was inactive for two additional games because of an ankle injury. “It’s tough. You want to be out there,” Brandon said. “I want to be out there on special teams or defense, helping wherever I can. “You’re on the field with them, battling with them all week, and then you’re in the box or on the sideline.” Dayne has experience being inactive. He was inactive every game of the 2003 season with the New York Giants. Dayne said he wasn’t happy about being inactive for Denver’s first game but knew there were reasons. “You understand when you’ve been in the league for a while that a lot of stuff comes up,” Dayne said. “You got to just deal with it. There’s no point getting upset about it.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 476-4891 or firstname.lastname@example.org INJURY REPORT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (2-0) AT DENVER BRONCOS (1-1) — Chiefs: OUT: DT Ryan Sims (foot). DOUBTFUL: LB Keyaron Fox (knee). QUESTIONABLE: TE Jason Dunn (knee); DE Carlos Hall (back); T Willie Roaf (hamstring). PROBABLE: RB Tony Richardson (ankle/knee); LB Rich Scanlon (shoulder). Bronc os: PROBABLE: RB Mike Anderson (ribs); CB Champ Bailey (shoulder); RB Tatum Bell (ankle); S Sam Brandon (groin); WR Todd Devoe (hamstring);TE Nate Jackson (hamstring); CB Darr ent Williams (concus sion). NEXT Kansas City (2-0) at Denver (1-1), 7 p.m. Monday, ABC, 740/850 AM
Colorado Springs Gazette has disabled the comments for this article.