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COLUMBIA MISSOURIAN

Page 4B — THURSDAY, November 28, 2013

NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE

Chiefs’ Hali plans to play against Broncos The pass rusher plans to play despite spraining his right ankle in last weekend’s loss

pass rusher Justin Houston, who had hurt his right elbow moments later. Chiefs coach Andy Reid described Houston’s injury as an elbow subluxation — a minor dislocation — but he was still undergoing tests. By DAVE SKRETTA Regardless, Houston is almost cerThe Associated Press tain to miss Sunday’s game against KANSAS CITY — The Kansas Denver, and that means it will be City Chiefs hope to have at least half even more important for the Chiefs their fearsome pass rushing duo to get Hali back on the field. when they welcome Peyton Man“I thought I’d be fine, but when I ning and the Denver Broncos to stepped on it and I felt so much pain, Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. I felt like I could play through it,” Just how effective Hali said of his injuTamba Hali will be is ry. “But every time I another question. pushed, I could barely ‘I wasn’t too Hali said before walk. practice Wednesday “They were trying optimistic, but a that he plans to play to get me back out day later, I feel despite spraining his there, doing all kinds right ankle in last of things, seeing if I better. I keep weekend’s loss to San could push off on it, telling the guys, and I couldn’t,” Hali Diego. The two-time Pro Bowl linebacker “I wasn’t too optikeep laughing and said. participated in the mistic, but a day later, morning walk-through you’ll feel better, so I feel better. I keep and said he’d been telling the guys, keep receiving treatment I’ve been laughing.’ laughing and you’ll on the ankle all week. feel better, so I’ve TAMBA HALI “We’re all hurt, but been laughing.” Chiefs pass rusher you have to believe Hali said he didn’t you can make plays,” feel any additional said Hali, who is second on the team pressure to get back on the field with nine sacks. “I just want to be because of the high-profile status REED HOFFMANN/The Associated Press ready to play on Sunday. I mean, just of Sunday’s game. The Chiefs and be honest with my body and myself. Broncos are both 9-2 and tied atop Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor is sacked by Kansas City Chiefs If I can play, I’ll play. ... I feel opti- the AFC West. Denver has already outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali during the second half in mistic about being out there.” beaten Kansas City once this season. Kansas City on Oct. 13. That’s a much better feeling than With a loss, the Chiefs would face Hali had when he gingerly walked a two-game deficit with four games want to see me do stuff out there, was the case this past weekend, Dezoff the field last Sunday, climbed into to go with the Broncos holding the I’ll do it,” Hali said. “I just want to man Moses would fill the other spot. a waiting cart and was driven up the tiebreaker by virtue of their head- be ready to play Sunday.” “As far as I know, they’re runtunnel to the Chiefs locker room. to-head record. If either outside linebacker is ning everything as normal,” Moses He spent the second half of a 41-38 “It all depends on what the train- unable to play, Frank Zombo would said. “Coach has a great defense loss to the Chargers alongside fellow ing staff wants me to do. If they start in his place. If both are out, as installed, and we’re going to do our

best to execute it and get the job done.” It’s hardly a surprise that Hali is trying desperately to get back on the field. Now in his eighth season, he’s only missed two games in his career. The first was in 2008, when he sprained the same ankle in a game against New Orleans. The other was last year’s season-opener, when he was suspended for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. “I think there’s a good chance he’s there, but we’ll see,” Reid said. “Every day he’s made progress. That he went through the walk-through I thought was a big step. He’s going to tell me he’s going to play — that’s what he’s telling me. But again, we have to make sure he’s going to be safe to be out there. We’re not going to put him in a position to worsen the injury.” Reid said defensive tackle Mike DeVito should be available against Denver after missing last week’s game with a knee injury. Right tackle Eric Fisher and right guard Jon Asamoah also could be back after dealing with shoulder injuries. Defensive back Sanders Cummings, who was on short-term injured reserve after breaking his collarbone in training camp, had some inflammation in the same shoulder that he hurt. Still, the news was mostly positive Wednesday on the injury front. Especially as it pertained to their veteran pass rusher. “The training staff has done a great job of jumping on the injury,” Hali said. “It’s just a blessing I was able to jump back in and start doing things.”

Broncos faced with fumbling problem With Broncos’ Kevin Vickerson injured, first-round pick says he’s ‘ready to go’ By EDDIE PELLS

The Associated Press ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos lead the league in an exhaustive list of offensive categories: Points, yards, passing, first downs, third down efficiency. Oh, and fumbles. What once looked like a quirk — an odd curiosity for the league’s most prolific offense — is now turning into a trend. What once looked like a nuisance — one or two fewer scoring opportunities each week for a team that was scoring plenty — has now cost the Broncos a game. Denver’s four turnovers, which included three lost fumbles, led to 17 New England points last Sunday in a 34-31 overtime loss. “Regardless of how good you are, that’s the kind of thing that can really cripple you and we’ve got to protect the football better,” interim coach Jack Del Rio said. Heading into Sunday’s game at Kansas City, Denver (9-2) has fumbled a leagueleading 26 times and lost 16. That’s six more fumbles and four more lost than the next-worst teams on the list. All that is part of Denver’s minus-3 turnover ratio, second-worst among the 11 teams who own or share the lead in their respective divisions. Leading the way: Peyton Manning, who has fumbled 10 times and lost six. That statistic is skewed, of course, because quarterbacks almost always fumble more given the number of times they handle the ball. The real ‘X’ factor as the Broncos head into the home-

stretch of the season are the Moreno. numbers farther down the Moreno, who rushed for a list and what, for the past career-high 224 yards last two seasons at least, has week, was banished to the been Denver’s method of inactive list for eight straight dealing with those who can’t games after fumbling last hang on. season in Week 2. Injuries Six weeks ago, Ronnie Hill- provided him with a second man fumbled for the second chance and he closed out the straight game; he hasn’t been season as the starter. His on the active roster since. dependability as a blocker, “It can happen anywhere. pass catcher and, yes, sureYou won’t see it coming,” Hill- handed ball carrier is what man said. “It’s mechanics and gave him — and has helped just keeping it wrapped up. him keep — the starting nod Having it in your mind that this year. He’s fumbled it a you’re going grand total of to get up and once, and recovyou’re going to ered it himself, Heading into have the ball.” since he came Sunday’s game back from his Rookie Montee Ball cartwo-month at Kansas City, ried the ball benching. 31 times over But how many Denver (9-2) has the first three more 37-carry weeks, but lost fumbled a league- nights, the likes two fumbles which he had leading 26 times of over that span, against New and lost 16. too. He got only England, can 35 carries over Moreno stomthe next seven ach? Big quesgames. His carries started tion now: Who on the list of increasing again at around flawed backups — rookie the same time Hillman dis- C.J. Anderson hasn’t been appeared and Ball was hit- charged with a fumble yet but ting stride last week — 40 has been involved in two bad yards on seven carries. exchanges with Manning — Then, he lost a fumble in do the Broncos trust to spell the third quarter that led to Moreno? New England’s second touch“I have great trust in my down. Ball wasn’t seen again entire room,” running backs that night. coach Eric Studesville said. “I let a lot of people down,” “It’s a talented room. ... The he said. “But you’ve got to young guys, they’re going to move on. I’m just going back get better and better. And to the basics, not taking ball- we emphasize it all the time: handling drills for granted ‘Hey, our responsibility is to and I’m not going to put the get up with the ball at the end ball on the ground.” of every down.’ They know For advice on how to han- we’re going to work on it. And dle fumbling and demotions, they all know the importance Hillman and Ball only need of it. But somewhere in that look down the row in the process, we’ve got to get that locker room at Knowshon done.”

By ARNIE STAPLETON

The Associated Press ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton took Sylvester Williams aside Wednesday in light of Kevin Vickerson’s seasonending hip injury and told the Denver Broncos’ first-round draft pick it’s time for him to step up, speak up and grow up. “Sly has the ability to be a game-wrecker,” Knighton said in the locker room later. “He just has to get the game down mentally. ... He needs to be a little bit more vocal. Our goal is to win a Super Bowl, so he’s going to have to grow up quick.” Williams has been a gameday inactive three times this season, twice in the past four games. The only time he’s played more than 19 snaps was Sunday night at New England, when Vickerson dislocated his right hip and Williams ending up playing 36 snaps in Denver’s 34-31 overtime loss to the Patriots. What Williams lacks in experiences he makes up for in exuberance. He said he’s ready to fill the void by plugging the holes and crashing the pocket beginning Sunday at Kansas City in a clash of 9-2 teams vying for AFC West supremacy — and maybe home-field advantage in the playoffs. “I’m going to welcome the role, man. I’m just ready to go out and help my team win and play the best that I can, and hopefully prove to my coaches that I’m ready to step in and be a starter,” Williams said. “I’m sorry to see my big brother go down, and I hope he gets

‘I’m going to welcome the role, man. I’m just ready to go out and help my team win and play the best that I can, and hopefully prove to my coaches that I’m ready to step in and be a starter.’ SYLVESTER WILLIAMS

Denver Broncos’ first-round draft pick

healthy and can come back again and help us next year, but as far as me, I’m ready to go, man. I’m ready to play football.” Third-year pro Mitch Unrein also will see his role expanded and the Broncos signed Sione Fua as a backup when they put Vickerson on season-ending injured reserve Wednesday. Fua started a dozen games over three seasons in Carolina, which waived him two weeks ago. Vickerson had 22 tackles and one sack — of Tom Brady on Sunday night before he got hurt — while starting every game this season and helping Denver rank fourth against the run. Williams has six tackles in seven games as a sub. “The good thing about him is he had me and Vick to learn from throughout the season and we shared all of our secrets, all of our techniques with him,” Knighton said. Vickerson is the second Denver defensive starter to get hurt this month, joining safety Rahim Moore (leg), who was put on recallable IR. “I think it’s a huge blow,” Knighton said. “He’s our motor. He gets us going up front. And obviously me and him have

built a relationship where we know how each other plays. It’s almost to where we don’t have to say anything to each other.” Knighton said he didn’t think there was a better D-tackle tandem in all of football. “Obviously, we don’t have the eight, nine sacks like the J.J. Watts or the Geno Atkins,” he said. “But I think that what me and him meant to our defense, being stout in the middle, not allowing quarterbacks to step up, things like that, when it comes to that, I think me and him were the best in the league.” Vickerson visited with his teammates at their Dove Valley headquarters Wednesday morning, and Knighton said his spirits were good. “I think everybody’s spirits are fine. I think of everybody, it probably hurt me the most,” Knighton said. “Every day the two D-tackles, they build that relationship, and they take pride in being the big guys on the team. We walk through the locker room, everybody moves. That’s just the mentality of D-tackles. I’m going to miss him being out there, but I’m definitely going to play for him and play harder for him and represent him.”

Rams defensive tackle called for roughing when making plays in the middle Michael Brockers was penalized after leveling the Bears’ quarterback By R.B. FALLSTROM

The Associated Press ST. LOUIS — Officials are so vigilant about protecting the quarterback that Michael Brockers made a textbook hit but still got flagged. St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher praised his defensive tackle right after a 42-21 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, and the next day, too. Fisher thought Brockers was penalized because the hit was so good. Going forward, he wouldn’t have the Rams’ first-round pick in 2012 change a thing. Brockers has been a force in the middle with 3 ½ sacks for

the Rams (5-6), who play at San Francisco (7-4) this week. “Hopefully it doesn’t get called the next time,” Brockers said Wednesday. “I’m a big human being, so hits are going to look like that. Just playing ball, you know.” Brockers was called for roughing the passer after bulling up the middle and leveling Josh McCown in the second half. Referee Jerome Boger said it was the correct call because the defender led with his helmet into the quarterback’s body. Brockers stayed low and sent McCown flying without making anything close to helmet-tohelmet contact. “I think that’s an example of how to hit the quarterback with the ball in his hand, in my opinion,” Fisher said. “It should not have been called. It was a great

effort, and it was unfortunate it took a sack away from ‘Brock.’ “Head was off to the side, just probably looked like it was too hard of a hit.” Instead of a 9-yard sack and forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown by middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, the Bears had firstand-goal at the 1. Two plays later, Michael Bush punched it in to cut the Rams’ lead to 27-21 with 7:20 to go. “They crushed my dreams,” Laurinaitis joked. “About the 35 yard-line I heard the whistle. I don’t want to look at the play again.” Fisher’s was livid on the sideline, yelling at the officials, and waved both arms down dismissively. Teammates were angry. “I thought that was a perfect form tackle,” end Chris Long said. “I’m not really sure what

they want us to do. We all know what that call looked like.” It could have been a game changer, except the offense responded with a seven-play, 80-yard drive capped by rookie Benny Cunningham’s 9-yard run plus a 2-point conversion pass from Kellen Clemens to Isaiah Pead that made it a 14-point gap with just over three minutes to go. Defensive end Robert Quinn added another late score when he sacked and striped McCown, then scooped up the ball on a fumble return. The 21-point margin made it easier to be philosophical. “You’ve got great athletes playing this game, and you expect the referees to catch everything,” Brockers said. “Stuff happens so fast. You can’t really blame them.” Brockers was the 14th pick

in 2012 after two seasons at LSU. Defensive tackles typically don’t accumulate a lot of impact statistics, clogging up the middle while others make the stop, but that’s not the case with the 6-foot-5, 322-pounder. “He’s playing the run good. He’s getting good pressure on the quarterback. He’s healthy and finishing plays,” Fisher said. “Obviously, if you don���t have the inside push, you’re not going to get the effectiveness on the edge.” Brockers missed most of the first month of his rookie season with a high right ankle sprain but then got immediately plugged into the lineup and finished with four sacks and led St. Louis linemen with 63 total tackles. He has 43 total tackles this year, with two forced fumbles.

None of the three players sidelined with concussion-like symptoms against the Bears practiced Wednesday. Fisher was noncommittal about running back Zac Stacy, guard Chris Williams and cornerback Trumaine Johnson’s availability this week. “All three of them are doing well,” Fisher said. “They’re all going through the process right now, and they’re all doing well.” Safety T.J. McDonald also was held out after returning last week from a broken leg with what the Rams called a shin issue. Laurinaitis needed 11 stitches to close a cut on his right ear first injured on a helmet-to-helmet hit with Colts quarterback Andrew Luck before the bye week. The ear was re-injured on a hit with Bush.


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