CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Shaquil Barrett jumped during a summer training session in Omaha, and wondered if he had just walked his season off a cliff. He landed with his left leg straight and his femur jammed into his hip
He tried to convince himself it was OK, before the pain overwhelmed him 20 minutes later. A call to the Broncos training staff led to a visit with Dr. Marc Philippon, a specialist in Vail with a history of working with high-profile athletes, including former New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez.
Barrett braced for his year to be ruined. Philippon provided a route to recovery not involving surgery on his damaged hip labrum.
"They guided me to the right direction. It was tore," Barrett said. "The worst-case scenario was October. I was in treatment every day, getting better every day. I got tired of treatment. I was ready to get back out here."
Cleared by the doctors, Barrett returned with a vengeance on Tuesday during the longest practice of the summer. At one point, the former Colorado State star beat offensive linemen on three consecutive plays. He fist-bumped a trainer after winning the last drill against rookie Garett Bolles.
"I am happy. They kind of eased me in today. They limited everything I did. I appreciate them for that," Barrett said. "If I can do more, I will do more. I am ready to get back on the field as soon as possible."
Barrett's return left Von Miller smiling. He believes Barrett could start on a number of teams. If Barrett proves healthy, he should line up with Miller on Sept. 11. Having him back creates another weapon in the pass rush.
"It's great to look over there and see someone I played with before," Miller said. "He looked great."
Outside linebacker Shane Ray, who had surgery on his left wrist, remains sidelined. He watched practice. The team has targeted Sept. 23 at Buffalo for his season debut. However, it is uncertain. Miller knows from experience that an outside linebacker must have strength in his hands.
"When I broke my thumb, it took a while," Miller said. "There are certain things you have to be able to do."
Von Miller smiled at my question. How did you get muscles on top of your quadriceps? His thighs look like those of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
"Well, here's what I do. I shake my leg... I bake my other leg," Miller said wiggling each one for impact. "And then I do leg bends. I do it every night before I go to bed."
Damn, really? "Um, no," he said with a laugh.
Miller believes his unconventional offseason conditioning -- climbing, running on the beach, spontaneous strength workouts -- will allow him to stay on the field for more plays this season. Miller, however, remains unsure if he will play this week. He has been held back the past two games to avoid risking injury.
"I am DFW -- down for whatever," Miller said. "Whatever V.J. wants me to do, I am ready to go."
Charles in charge
Jamaal Charles receives once chance to make the Broncos. The former All-Pro running back will receive plenty of reps Saturday night at home against the Green Bay Packers. He ditched the knee brace in preparation for this opportunity. Can he show burst? Can he get around the corner? Can he recover on Sunday? Can he prove he hasn't lost a step? In his battle for a roster spot against Stevan Ridley, he hasn't lost his confidence.
"I’ve always been Jamaal—Jamaal never went anywhere. I’m just on a different team now and I’m able to just go out there and play with my teammates and have fun," said Charles, who has played eight games over the past two seasons. "Every time I step on the field, it’s an opportunity to show people what I can do for me in the present and now in the future. It’s the same thing.”
If Charles fails to deliver, the Broncos could cut him, allowing him a week to catch on elsewhere before rosters are trimmed from 90 to 53 players.
"He looked great today, he looked great last week and he is wanting to play football,” said Joseph, who anticipates playing Charles early in the game.
Several injured Broncos returned to practice besides Barrett. T.J. Ward (right hamstring), Cody Latimer (patellar tendon in knee), Emmanuel Sanders (shoulder), and rookie DeMarcus Walker (hip) were all back. "I felt good out there," Walker said.