CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Protection in special teams Friday outweighed carrying an underperforming defensive lineman.
With a low-scoring affair possible Sunday night against Kansas City, the Broncos added long snapper Thomas Gafford and waived defensive tackle Darius Kilgo. Gafford will play Sunday with long snapper Casey Kreiter out this week and possibly longer with a calf injury.
"I refused to give up hope," said Gafford, who trained in Houston, waiting for the call that came while on a deer hunting trip in Texas. "The way I look at it is if I get an opportunity and I am not ready I would never forgive myself."
Kilgo's release was also made easier with the return of defensive end Derek Wolfe. He will be three weeks removed from suffering a hairline fracture in his right elbow. However, he has practiced this week on a limited basis, and knew he would be ready because of the surprised mobility in the arm. He will play with a brace to protect the elbow from further injury.
"I was surprised how good it felt. It's going to hurt, but it's a pain I can deal with," Wolfe told Denver7. "I see this as a playoff game. We know how good we can be. We have had a lot of injuries. We haven't had our full squad together. This is going to be fun."
Gafford brings experience rather than risk using defensive end Billy Winn, who had been practicing snaps this week. Debuting in 2008, Gafford played for the Chiefs (2008-2014) and with the Bears and Raiders last season. The long snapper is needed on punt coverage. Gafford owns 19 career tackles and a fumble recovery.
"The blocking scheme is the most challenging thing to adjust to. I have been around a little bit, so I understand it," said Gafford, a former high school quarterback and college tight end. "Lucky I had a cell signal where we were hunting. I am excited to get back on the field and help out."
Kilgo, a Maryland product, boasted potential when drafted in the sixth round of the 2015 draft. However, he failed to progress this season with additional playing time. He posted five tackles in nine games and was recently inactive at Oakland as a reflection of his lacking production and pass rush. A defensive end by trade, Winn will take some snaps at nose tackle to spell Sylvester Williams. Adam Gotsis is more comfortable on the outside than the interior based on his usage.
The Broncos could continue to canvas for defensive line depth over the next few weeks. They cut Kilgo despite possessing an excess of receivers with the recent addition of Marlon Brown. The final roster spots are subject to change on a weekly basis based on need.
"It hurt (with Kilgo's release). It's like losing a little brother," Williams said. "But the key is how he bounces back."