Broncos appear to escape serious injury in opener

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Playing 96 hours after a bruising slugfest is one of the toughest tasks in the NFL.

''The challenge this week?'' Denver defensive end Antonio Smith said Monday. ''To WANT to practice.''

Fortunately for Smith and his teammates, coach Gary Kubiak is only putting the Broncos through a series of what are basically walkthroughs before their game at Kansas City on Thursday night.

''We're beat up,'' Kubiak said. ''That was a physical game yesterday.''

He said he felt confident the Broncos had escaped any serious injuries in their win over Baltimore in the opener, however.

Malik Jackson (head) was ''doing great,'' Kubiak said, adding that he hasn't been diagnosed with a concussion, which would have ruled him out against the Chiefs (1-0).

Safety Omar Bolden (left heel) said he was hoping X-rays would reveal only a bruise so he could return kickoffs, but he wasn't at practice Monday night.

''Unfortunately, we've got this quick turnaround,'' said Bolden, who got hurt covering a third-quarter punt. ''But I'm going to try to get back out there. I know there are some kickoff return opportunities in Kansas City. So, I definitely want to be the guy to do that.''

Safety David Bruton Jr. (right hip) said he was feeling much better and would play Thursday night. He got a hand on Joe Flacco's final pass to Crockett Gillmore and knocked it up for teammate Darian Stewart to intercept in the final minute Sunday.

Stewart missed practice Monday with a groin injury, which was revealed only when the team released its post-workout practice report.

Bruton came down hard on his right hip and had to be helped off the field after a rush of adrenalin allowed him to briefly celebrate the big stop.

Inside linebacker Brandon Marshall wore a walking boot Monday on his surgically repaired right foot - not unexpectedly, he noted - but practiced and was hopeful the short turnaround wouldn't curtail his workload against the Chiefs.

Also, receiver Demaryius Thomas (hand) said he was OK, and Kubiak said running back C.J. Anderson (ankle, toe) was fine, too.

Thomas practiced Monday, but Anderson was held out.

The Broncos offense is trying to fix things after taking just one snap in the red zone Sunday - and promptly got knocked 4 yards back to the 21.

One player who will be fresh is safety T.J. Ward, who returned from his one-game suspension Monday.

''The positive is I'm back and I get to play,'' he said. ''That's as good as it gets.''

Peyton Manning also took a beating and was listed as a full participant at Monday's practice despite a sore back. He got sacked four times, his highest total in 28 games, while playing behind a line that had never lined up together in a game and which included four newcomers.

''I thought I was the worst of the group,'' said Pro Bowl left guard Evan Mathis, a free agent who wouldn't use his late August arrival as an excuse.

''I expect more out of myself and I don't care how long I've been here,'' he said.

Mathis said the lighter workload will help him and the rest of the offense make some repairs this week.

''It allows you to put much more emphasis on the mental aspect of the game because you're going to back off physically,'' Mathis said. ''You're going to not do as much pounding because you've got to focus on recovering from this game.''

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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