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Broncos won’t place star cornerback Chris Harris Jr. on IR

December 3, 2018

Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris (25) lies on the field with an apparent injury in the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos are holding out hope that Chris Harris Jr . can return from a broken right leg in a month — and that they’ll be in the playoffs to make it matter.

“He’s week to week and he won’t go to IR,” coach Vance Joseph said Monday. “He needs rest and rehab and we’ll see how it falls in a (few) weeks. I think it’s great news for Chris. He has time to hopefully recover and heal up and hopefully we’re still playing.”

The star cornerback’s fractured fibula marred the Broncos’ 24-10 win at Cincinnati on Sunday.

Harris said he expects to return for the Chargers game in the regular-season finale on Dec. 30.

“I always heal fast,” said Harris, who walked into the locker room Monday and nonchalantly ditched his crutches three steps from his locker as he checked messages on his cellphone. “I’ve got the right people around me to help me heal fast. And I’ll work night and day to get back. So, my goal is three weeks. They said four. But my goal is three weeks because I want to play against San Diego.”

Actually, the Chargers now hail from Los Angeles, but you get the point.

Harris hopes there’s still a lot more for him to do on the football field this season.

He said he’s not concerned his injury will tarnish what was shaping up as another All-Pro-caliber season.

“I’ve been guarding the best receivers every week. My numbers speak for themselves,” he said. “I’ve got to be top in the metrics every category almost. Everybody knows I was the best corner this year so far.”

Harris won’t be on the field now against San Francisco, Cleveland and Oakland, three teams with a combined 8-27-1 record, but that doesn’t mean he won’t still be contributing to the Broncos’ playoff push.

“I’m in the meeting room, I’m like an extra coach,” Harris said, planning to continue his tutoring of defensive backs.

“His leadership is critical for our young back end,” Joseph said. “He’s a very, very smart football player, so the things he finds in his film study no one else finds. So, absolutely, having him around is going to help us.”

Joseph said defensive end Derek Wolfe (torn rib cartilage) and rookie inside linebacker Josey Jewell (mild high ankle sprain) are both day to day while cornerback Tramaine Brock (thigh) and linebacker Brandon Marshall (knee) are expected back this week.

Joseph declined to give a best-case scenario for Harris’ return but did say his loss won’t force a change in Denver’s defensive philosophies.

After Harris got hurt, free safety Justin Simmons moved over to nickel cornerback and kept receiver Tyler Boyd in check in Denver’s heavy employment of dime defenses with safeties Will Parks and Su’a Cravens.

Brock’s return this week would give Joseph more options against the 49ers.

The Broncos have won three in a row for the first time since their Super Bowl-winning season in 2015, but they’re still on the waiting list for the AFC playoff party.

So, Joseph is rehashing his “small focus, big picture awareness” mantra that he’s been preaching ever since the Broncos stumbled into their bye week at 3-6.

“We can’t chase the highlights and who’s winning, who’s not winning,” Joseph said. “That can’t be our focus. Our focus has to be to play our best ball on Sunday. At the end, we’ll see where we are.”

And whether Harris is back on the field with them.

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