ENGLEWOOD - Reaching 1,000 yards would be nice, but Tatum Bell might have something more important to prove Saturday. Bell, the Denver Broncos’ backup tailback who needs 131 yards to reach 1,000 this season, will start.
Mike Anderson is out with an ankle injury. Bell has played a lot in two seasons with Denver but has never started. He’s never had more than 17 carries in a game, either. Bell hasn’t shown the Broncos he can be an every-down back. He might have a chance against San Diego. He also might get pulled to rest for the playoffs and to allow Ron Dayne to get some work. “I want to prove to the coaches and my teammates I can carry 25 times and still come out of a game healthy,” Bell said. Bell has fought the stigma of being a change-of-pace back and said he doesn’t know why he hasn’t gotten a chance to carry the ball 20 to 25 times per game. Bell said he let an opportunity slip away in Denver’s first game against Miami. Anderson left the game in the first quarter with a rib injury, and Bell rushed for 47 yards on 13 carries, and 30 yards came on one run. “I felt like I had a decent training camp and preseason and all that stuff, but I think they lost confidence in me the first game,” Bell said. “Hopefully I can bring that confidence back.” There have been questions about Bell’s durability since last season. He missed training camp last year with a fin- ger injury, then dealt with rib, shoulder and hamstring injuries. Bell missed two regularseason games last year. He missed one game this season, against Dallas with a bruised chest. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan often has said he would like to see Bell stay healthy. He hasn’t given Bell an expanded role because he doesn’t want to wear Bell out. Bell’s biggest asset is his ability to break a big play. He is sixth in the NFL with 10 runs of 20 yards or longer. Shanahan has said he wants to keep Bell fresh so he can break a long run late in the game. This week Bell can show he is more than just a homerun threat. “He’s got a great opportunity,” Shanahan said. Getting 1,000 yards is admittedly on Bell’s mind. Denver would be the first team since 1985 and the fourth in NFL history to have two 1,000-yard backs. Anderson has 1,014 yards. “It’s realistic,” Bell said. “It’s going to be a hard game and they got the best run defense in the league, but we run the ball real good. I don’t think we’ll miss a beat with Mike being out.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 476-4891 or email@example.com NEXT Denver (12-3) at San Diego (9-6), 2:30 p.m. Saturday, CBS, 740/850 AM