Broncos take a depleted roster to California

FILE - In this Dec. 4, 2016, file photo, Jacksonville Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon, right, is stopped by Denver Broncos defensive end Jared Crick during the first half of an NFL football game in Jacksonville, Fla. Crick is the latest victim of the Broncos' injury outbreak. He was carted off the practice field Monday, Aug, 14, 2017, with what coach Vance Joseph said were thought to be back spasms. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The Denver Broncos are taking a depleted roster to San Francisco, where they’ll practice twice with the 49ers in advance of their preseason game Saturday.

”I know we’re going to compete, but the main thing is keeping both sides healthy,” receiver Demaryius Thomas said. ”We’ve had some people go down.”

After watching D-linemen Billy Winn (ACL), Derek Wolfe (ankle) and Jared Crick (back) get carted off the field over a five-day span, the Broncos kept a summer-high eight players out of Tuesday’s practice because of injuries.

They included receiver Cody Latimer (sore knee) and rookie linebacker DeMarcus Walker (hip-flexor), both of whom are expected to return to practice in California.

However, Wolfe, Crick and safety T.J. Ward (hamstring) were staying behind.

The Broncos are down to seven interior defensive linemen for three positions, but they’re hoping to avoid bringing in more reinforcements before the returns of Wolfe and Crick, who are expected to be ready for the season opener.

”That’s the plan and that’s why we’re going so slow with these guys,” Joseph said. ”I can push Wolfe out there next week and push Crick out there probably by Friday but it makes no sense. Our goal for those guys is to rehab, get them as healthy as possible and Week 1 be at full strength.”

Joseph and 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan have emphasized the need for their players to keep emotions in check this week so nobody else gets hurt.

”First of all, we’re going to be in pads only one day and then shells the next day,” Joseph said. ”That’s going to be a big deal. We don’t want any fights, we don’t want any nonsense and we want to just go play football.”

Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. has mixed feelings about working out with another team.

”I really don’t like the joint practices because they’re more like a game,” Harris said. ”The teams start fighting and things like that. I get enough looks going against” teammates Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders ”in practice, but I think it will be good just to see some other guys.”

Cornerback Aqib Talib said joint practices are ”almost like a preseason game because you’re going to play to the max. Whenever we compete, we go to the max but when it’s another color jersey, you go all out. It’s almost like you play three preseason games that week. It’ll be great work for us.”

Joseph will hold out two healthy players from the game in center Matt Paradis and running back Jamaal Charles, both of whom are coming off injuries from last season. However, both will practice against the 49ers.

Charles has increased his workload at practice but the Broncos have long targeted their game against Green Bay on Aug. 26 for his debut.

”That’s been the plan for the entire time, to kind of get Jamaal as strong as he can be before we put him on the field,” Joseph said. ”He is ready to go, it’s me holding Jamaal back. But he wants to go. He wanted to go last week but the plan was Green Bay so we’re going to stick with that plan.”

The biggest story line in California will be Paxton Lynch’s first start – and presumably last chance to make up ground in his quest to beat out incumbent QB Trevor Siemian . Lynch threw two interceptions at Tuesday’s practice.

Joseph said at the start of training camp that ideally he’d like to name a starting quarterback after the second preseason game but on Tuesday he wouldn’t commit to doing so.

”I don’t know. I’m not sure and I’m not there yet,” Joseph said. ”Paxton is starting Saturday and after the game we’ll sit down and watch and figure out our plans from there but I’m not sure. I’m not stressed about that.”

EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND: Kalif Raymond has followed his spectacular preseason performance – a 24-yard catch, a 34-yard punt return and a 41-yard kickoff return – with several days of equally head-turning plays at practice.

”He made the three biggest plays, in my opinion, on offense: the kick return, the punt return and the scramble play by Kyle (Sloter),” Joseph said. ”He’s an impressive person, he’s always engaged, he’s very fast, he’s a tough-minded guy and I’ve been impressed with him.”

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