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Broncos’ Griese To Start Saturday

December 21, 2000

DENVER (AP) _ It’s hard to imagine a guy named Griese having any rust, but Broncos quarterback Brian Griese will have a chance to tune up for the playoffs when he returns Saturday for Denver’s season finale.

Griese on Thursday was officially cleared to start against the San Francisco 49ers after missing five games with a separated right shoulder.

``I’ll be ready to go,″ he said after practicing for the second straight day.

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said Griese looked strong enough to replace backup Gus Frerotte, who is 4-2 as a starter. Any lingering soreness was imperceptible as Denver crammed two practices worth of material into one 90-minute workout.

``He’s not going to admit it, but I think it’s just natural to have a little soreness,″ Shanahan said. ``He made it through practice today taking full reps.″

Asked if his shoulder felt good, Griese said, ``It hasn’t felt good in about five weeks.″

Nonetheless, Griese remains the NFL’s top-rated passer and said it was important to play in the final regular-season game to make sure he felt comfortable heading into the playoffs.

His return comes at a crucial time for the Broncos (10-5), who can win the AFC West if they beat San Francisco and Oakland (11-4) loses to Carolina on Sunday.

Earning a first-round bye remains unlikely, but it would do wonders for Griese’s shoulder and Terrell Davis’ ailing left leg. Denver otherwise appears headed to Baltimore for a matchup with the Ravens on Dec. 30 or Dec. 31.

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