Brister Ready if Elway Stays Out
DENVER (AP) _ John Elway limped through the Denver Broncos’ locker room Monday still unsure if his strained right hamstring would prevent him from playing against the despised Oakland Raiders.
His teammates weren’t betting against him.
``He went through his workout today, and he’s feeling pretty good,″ backup quarterback Bubby Brister said. ``We’ll see how it goes. Everybody expects John to play. You never expect him to get hurt to start with.″
``I saw him in there riding the bike,″ wide receiver Rod Smith said. ``I’m not a doctor, but it looks pretty good. If he can go, you know he’ll definitely go.″
Elway, 38, strained the hamstring Sunday during the fourth quarter of Denver’s 42-23 win over the Dallas Cowboys. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said Elway’s status for Sunday’s game probably won’t be determined until late this week.
``We’re not going to risk John playing if we think it’s going to set him back,″ Shanahan said. ``He’s been in the NFL a long time and he knows his body as well as anybody. He knows what he can handle and what he can’t handle.″
Elway said he felt the hamstring pop as he ran right and completed a 7-yard pass to Ed McCaffrey. Elway handed off to Terrell Davis on the next play and then limped to the sideline clutching the back of his right leg.
``When I could barely get the ball to Terrell, I knew I was done for the day,″ Elway said.
The injury comes as Denver’s offense is threatening to outperform its Super Bowl proficiency of a year ago. The Broncos scored touchdowns on all five first-half possessions Sunday and led 35-17 by halftime.
Brister relieved Elway and immediately converted a third-and-1 before completing a 38-yard pass to set up Denver’s final touchdown.
``I don’t want to start because I want John to play,″ Brister said. ``We have a better chance to win when John’s healthy. I know that, you know that and everybody else knows that. I can play, and I think I can get the job done, but I’m still not No. 7.″
Brister spent a year out of football hunting and fishing before signing with the Broncos in 1997. His last start came Nov. 5, 1995, for the New York Jets. He was replaced midway through the second quarter of a 20-7 loss to New England and played in only one more game the rest of the season.
``After that year with the Jets, everybody needed a year off,″ Brister said of New York’s 3-13 season. ``We had a tough year. It was good to get away from it for a while.″
If Brister does start Sunday, he will inherit an offense that has put up 854 yards and 69 points the first two weeks. Sunday’s performance received glowing reviews from Dallas cornerback Deion Sanders, who told Denver defensive end Neil Smith that the Broncos would return to the Super Bowl.
``It’s always nice to be complimented by a guy with his ability, but the bottom line is we’ve only played two games,″ Shanahan said. ``We’ve got to be worried about Oakland and not be worried about Week 17.″
In addition to concerns about Elway’s health, Shanahan is looking for improvements on defense and special teams. Denver was shaky on kickoff returns Sunday and allowed Dallas to covert a fourth down when Toby Gowin took off up the middle for 33 yards on a fake punt.
Defensively, the Broncos surrendered 370 yards and several big plays. It might have been worse if Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman hadn’t broken his left collarbone early in the second quarter.
``We had some breakdowns,″ Denver linebacker Bill Romanowski said. ``It was a guy here, a guy there, and the next thing you know Emmitt Smith is getting 10, 15 yards a pop. That part of it’s disappointing. We know we can get better. We have to.″