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Archive for Sunday, September 17, 2006

Broncos fully aware of Huard’s pedigree

September 17, 2006

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— The Denver Broncos don't believe they're catching a break by facing a backup quarterback who hasn't started a game in nearly six seasons.

With Trent Green sidelined by a concussion, Damon Huard will be under center when the Kansas City Chiefs visit Invesco Field for today's 3:15 p.m. kickoff.

"We aren't licking our chops over it," Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams insisted.

After all, Huard may have just six NFL starts under his belt, but he is 5-1 as a starter, and he isn't some baby-faced rookie. He's been in the league for a decade and has caddied for Dan Marino in Miami and Tom Brady in New England, where he won two Super Bowl rings.

"He has started before in the league, a couple of years back and was pretty successful. It is good to have a veteran quarterback as the backup guy," Chiefs coach Herm Edwards said. "He is a real steady guy, a smart guy. He knows how to handle the huddle. He has a pretty good arm, is a guy that has been in that role and I think he accepts it well. He's always ready to play when he's called upon."

Green sustained a severe concussion on Sunday when he was hit by Cincinnati's Robert Geathers and will miss at least two or three games. The NFL absolved Geathers on Wednesday, emphasizing quarterbacks are responsible for avoiding hits by sliding early enough.

Huard replaced Green in the third quarter of Kansas City's 23-10 loss to the Bengals and completed 12 of 20 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. His connection to Tony Gonzalez was the first touchdown pass Huard had completed since he threw one for Miami at Indianapolis on Nov. 26, 2000, which was his last start.

"There isn't a lot of film on him," cornerback Champ Bailey said.

Indeed, you have to go back to Dec. 24, 2000, to find Huard's last completion before Sunday.

The Broncos won't change any of their approach when Green's franchise record 81-game starting streak is snapped.

"You know exactly what the Kansas City offense is going to do," Broncos safety Nick Ferguson said. "It doesn't mean anything that he is the starting quarterback. They won't all of a sudden revamp the offense."

Denver coach Mike Shanahan pointed out to his players that Huard has been around this league longer than most of them have.

"He hasn't had a lot of opportunities, but when he has played he has played well," Shanahan said.

The Broncos have a good track record against backup quarterbacks under defensive coordinator Larry Coyer, going 7-0 against No. 2s since 2003.

Shanahan said the Broncos prepare for systems more so than particular players, and against the Chiefs it all starts with stopping running back Larry Johnson, whom he expects to get more carries than normal.

The Chiefs' offensive line allowed seven sacks by the Bengals, and Johnson was held without 100 yards rushing for the first time in 10 games. On Thursday, mammoth left tackle Willie Roaf, an 11-time Pro Bowl player, made his retirement official, disappointing Chiefs fans who were hoping he'd reconsider after watching Green get knocked unconscious in the opener.

"I often took my body for granted and played without thinking about tomorrow," Roaf said. "I played hard and played only as if I was in the NFL for a couple of seasons. And 14 years later I stand beside you and realize I will no longer play football."

To give Huard more options, Kansas City boosted its receiving corps by signing Rod Gardner to a two-year contract on Wednesday. A 2001 first-round pick of Washington, Gardner was released by Green Bay in the preseason.

The Broncos are looking to fix their own problems on offense.

They had five turnovers in their loss at St. Louis on Sunday after committing just 16 all last season on their way to a 13-3 record and an appearance in the AFC title game.

Jake Plummer, who threw just seven interceptions last season, threw three Sunday and fumbled away another, negating all the good things the Broncos' defense did by holding the Rams out of the end zone on five trips inside the 20 and yielding only three conversions on 15 third downs.

"We owe our defense," Broncos receiver Rod Smith said. "The way we played, I've never seen a team have two opposites like at the same time. That's the worst half of offensive football that I've ever been a part of with the Broncos, and the best defensive half I've seen from our team.

"So, we owe those guys."

Plummer has taken the most heat for the offensive woes, but his teammates have rallied around him.

"The guy is a great quarterback, a great teammate, and as I tell our guys every week, it's up to us to make him great," Smith said. "And we didn't do a good job of that last week."

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