ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) - Shane Ray made a surprise appearance on the practice field Wednesday, providing hope to a depleted Denver defense preparing to face the Chiefs without Pro Bowl pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware and star cornerback Aqib Talib.
"I felt really good today. I didn't feel any pain. I felt fast," the Broncos' first-round draft pick said after practicing for the first time since injuring his right knee in Denver's overtime win at Cleveland on Oct. 18. "I felt actually a little fresher because I've been down for four weeks."
Ray sprained his right MCL when teammate Derek Wolfe shoved Browns tackle Mitchell Schwartz into the back of his legs.
Asked if he needed to do something in particular this week, such as coming off the edge or moving laterally, to prove to himself and the coaching staff that he's healthy and ready to return to action, Ray said: "I pretty much did all of that today and I felt just fine. I didn't feel any problems with that at all. Really it just comes down to how I feel when I make contact with somebody in the run game or tackling."
Coach Gary Kubiak said Ray had a good workout Wednesday and will be a "full go" Thursday for the full-pads practice.
"The expectations are that if he comes through the week well that he'll be ready to go" Sunday when the Broncos (7-1) face the Chiefs (3-5), Kubiak said.
The Broncos will be without Ware, who leads the team with 6 1-2 sacks but wrenched his back last weekend at Indianapolis, and Talib, who was suspended for a game for poking a player in the eye.
Ray's return would be quite a relief for the league's top-ranked defense, which is digging deep into its depth.
While Ray only has four tackles so far, two are sacks and the other two also came behind the line of scrimmage.
He said the hardest part of the last month was "sitting out. I felt like I was just starting to heat up and my injury set me back for four weeks and I couldn't participate in a really big win my team had (against Green Bay on Nov. 1) and even the loss that we had I couldn't participate in. And that's what it's all about.
"I love this game and when an injury like that happens you kind of realize how quickly it can be taken away from you," Ray said. "So, I just worked hard, stayed in the weight room, stayed in the treatment room and just prepared as much as I could to try to get back as fast as I could."
Ray, who starred at the University of Missouri, said he's had his mind on the events back on the Columbia campus this week.
He said he wasn't surprised the Tigers football team was able to have a big impact when players staged a two-day walkout as part of protests over the school's handling of racial issues. Two days after the team joined the protest, the school president and chancellor resigned.
"If there's true racial injustice or sexual injustice or anything along the lines that people feel they should step up for, I mean, this is the time," Ray said. "Missouri has opened up a door that if it's a problem it can be addressed and a change can happen."