Injuries Piling Up for Wide Receivers

*** UPDATED 8:01 P.M. MDT ***

Eddie Royal

Eddie Royal has missed the last three days of practice in what John Fox termed a "preventative measure." (PHOTO: MAXDENVER.COM)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Eddie Royal’s hip has kept him sidelined for the last three full practices and Thursday’s preseason loss to the Dallas Cowboys. But the hip that’s an issue now isn’t the one that was surgically repaired last January.

“The hip that he had surgery on in the offseason is fine. It’s the other hip that’s kind of bothering him,” Broncos coach John Fox said after Saturday morning’s practice. “We’ll take that cautiously and I think he’ll be out there pretty soon.”

When Royal went to the sideline earlier this week, Fox described it as a “preventative” measure. His goal is to have Royal ready for the regular season — not for the August games when the only major potential consequence is injuries.

“You’ve got to get them ready to play a football season — this year’s probably even tougher than most — but you want to make sure you’ve got to have enough guys to play the season,” Fox said. “Eddie falls into that category.”

Nevertheless, Royal’s injury is a concern, given his solid play in training camp and the overall state of the receiving corps, which is long on raw talent but short on veteran depth after the pre-camp trade of Jabar Gaffney to the Washington Redskins.

Saturday, the Broncos practiced without Royal, Britt Davis, Mark Dell and, by the end of practice, Matthew Willis. Willis, the fourth wide receiver through most of training camp, was on the field and in pads for the entire practice, but his work was limited.

Dell was later placed on the waived/injured list.  To take his spot, the Broncos signed former Purdue wide receiver Greg Orton – who is no relation to the Broncos’ quarterback.  The newcomer confirmed the move on his Twitter feed.

“Thankfully and humbly signed to the Denver Broncos!!!” he Tweeted.

If Dell passes through waivers, the Broncos can place him on injured reserve, as they did last Saturday with running back Mario Fannin, who hurt his knee during practice on Aug. 5.

At one point, the Broncos’ first-team three-wide receiver set included Brandon Lloyd, Eric Decker and D’Andre Goodwin, although veteran David Anderson typically rotated up to the first unit when it went into three-wide sets.  With the various injuries, Davis or Dell might have made cameos with the first unit in three-wideout sets Saturday.

Dell had impressed onlookers during the first two weeks of training camp and had a 26-yard catch to set up the Broncos’ first touchdown at Dallas two nights ago, but was injured shortly thereafter.

Royal spent part of Saturday’s practice on an adjacent field catching passes with Demaryius Thomas, whose expected recovery time frame rom a torn Achilles tendon can still be measured in months, rather than weeks or days. Thomas has regularly caught passes from teammates and a JUGS machine during and after Broncos practice, but has yet to run any routes.

Fox did note that Thomas’s injury is the only one considered to be long-term at this point.

“We’re obviously looking to get legs and we’ll do what it takes, but I don’t think there’s anything long-term except for Demaryius,” Fox said. “Hopefully guys will get back out there fairly quickly.”

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About Andrew Mason

Andrew Mason has covered the NFL since 1999, when he worked as an editor on NFL.com when the site was managed by ESPN.com. He worked six seasons (2002-07) covering the Broncos on their official website and two (2008-09) on the Panthers' site. He began MaxDenver.com in 2010 and now contributes to CBSSports.com, The Sporting News and The New York Times.
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