ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — There weren’t any pads at this practice. No clouds, either. And Derek Wolfe couldn’t have been happier.
“It’s funny how much you really don’t like to practice until you can’t do it anymore. And then you’re just dying to get out there again,” Wolfe said Tuesday following his first practice with the Denver Broncos since his arms and legs went numb following a frightening hit in a preseason game at Seattle on Aug. 17.
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“That whole time you’re just thinking I could have been done for good but now that I’m not, I want to get out there bad,” he said. “Once you’re playing football you don’t think about getting hurt and if you do you’re going to get hurt.”
Showing his neck was fine, Wolfe swiveled his head from side to side on the podium, a far cry from the night he was strapped to a backboard and taken off the field in an ambulance amid fears he had a cervical spine injury that would keep him off the football field and maybe off his feet forever.
“Oh yeah, I have pretty good movement,” he said. “It feels fine; my neck wasn’t getting tired carrying a helmet around or anything. It’s feeling pretty good. We’ll see how it feels when we get some pads on, though.”
Coach John Fox smiled when talking about Wolfe’s return.
“Looking back a couple of weeks that was a pretty scary proposition for him, and really for anybody in that stadium, especially anybody on our sideline. So it’s a blessing. We’re happy for him and it’s good to have him back here,” Fox said.
The second-year defensive end said he won’t play in the Broncos’ preseason finale Thursday night.
However barring any setbacks, he plans to be in the lineup when Denver opens the regular season Sept. 5 at home against Baltimore.
Wolfe, who’s expected to shore up Denver’s defense while All-Pro linebacker Von Miller serves his six-game suspension to start the season, said he thought he’d miss more time, but with the pain gone and no weakness, he underwent another MRI and received clearance to return to action.
He credited head athletic trainer Steve Antonopulos for “making sure I was in there every day just for hours and hours. When you are stuck in that room it makes you want to get out faster so that helped to.”
The altitude and layoff quickly winded Wolfe but he powered through it.
“I’m just trying to get my lungs used to running around and playing football again,” he said. “A week doesn’t seem like very much, but in the football world it is.”
Also returning to practice Tuesday were defensive end Robert Ayers (foot) and cornerback Omar Bolden, who showed no ill effects from his sprained ankle when he capped practice with a pick-6 of Brock Osweiler.
Notes: Offensive coordinator Adam Gase said nobody should expect to see Peyton Manning, who had 34 passes in the first half Saturday, throwing 70 times a game during the season. “That was a little extreme,” Gase said, noting that many of the throws were of the dink-and-dunk variety and “we were trying to work on a certain element of what we have in our offensive package.” … The Broncos reached the 75-player roster limit by putting S Quinton Carter (knee) on IR for the second straight year and placing C J.D. Walton (knee) on reserve/PUP. Walton might be able to play midway through the season.