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Denver Broncos put Willis McGahee on IR

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Denver Broncos put Willis McGahee on IR

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The Denver Broncos will have to make a deep run in the playoffs to get Willis McGahee any more carries this season.

The Broncos put their 31-year-old running back on recallable injured reserve Wednesday, meaning he can return to practice after missing the final six regular-season games and play in a game after Jan. 18.

That would bring Denver up to the AFC title game.

McGahee tore the medical collateral ligament in his right knee Sunday when he was tackled low by San Diego cornerback Quentin Jammer. Coach John Fox said McGahee won't need surgery, but he decided to put him on IR to give the Broncos some roster flexibility.

McGahee will be replaced by rookie Ronnie Hillman, Lance Ball and former first-round pick Knowshon Moreno, who have combined for 297 yards and two TDs on 82 carries so far, when the AFC West-leading Broncos (7-3) visit the Kansas City Chiefs (1-9) on Sunday.

``We're certainly going to miss Willis,'' quarterback Peyton Manning said. ``To say we're not going to miss Willis would be not telling the truth because he's that good of a player. ... So, Knowshon and Ronnie and Lance have to step up. Everybody else has to step their game up, too, when you're missing one of your top players.''

McGahee ranks fifth among AFC rushers with 731 yards and a 4.4-yard average. He also had 26 catches for 221 yards - just 10 yards shy of his career high set in 2007 in Baltimore - and his 33 career 100-yard games are more than any other active running back.

Denver's offense is built around Manning's pinpoint passing, but McGahee's success despite a career-high five fumbles provided the Broncos with a toughness between the tackles and kept opponents from teeing off on Manning and his receivers.

``The good thing is all three guys have played plenty early in the year. So, they're all familiar with the system and they've all got to pick up their game,'' offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said. ``Every back, every player, has a different style. So, they'll do their thing. We have all the confidence in the world those guys can do that.''

Of the three, Hillman has had the most work - 49 carries for 188 yards - but he's a smaller, shiftier tailback in the mold of Darren Sproles and the Broncos will watch his workload closely.

``Willis has had the most game repetitions, but Lance and Knowshon are veteran players and Ronnie's probably had as much experience as any rookie running back right now,'' Manning said. ``Those guys will step up and do a good job.''

Ball and Moreno have more experience in pass protection, and that's priority No. 1 for any running back in Denver, as evidenced by Ball's beautiful blitz pickup last week when he slid from the left side to the right, sparing Manning a vicious hit and allowing him to throw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker.

``That was a huge block,'' said Manning, who expects those kinds of plays from whoever's in the backfield with him.

Hillman said the prospect of carrying a larger load now means ``you've got to protect Peyton a lot longer. I've been in there a lot, but if I do get an extended role, then it's a little more pressure, being able to do everything right every play that I'm there.''

The Broncos are keeping their options open as far as filling McGahee's spot on the roster. They could promote running back Jeremiah Johnson from their practice squad or sign a free agent. On Tuesday, they worked out former Houston running back Steve Slaton, who rushed for 1,282 yards and caught 50 passes as a rookie in 2008 before injuries and inconsistency took hold.

Fox, however, indicated he wasn't planning on adding another running back before Sunday's game.

``For this week, I think we feel very comfortable with who we have,'' Fox said. ``And that can change based on anything we might do, but I think it's fair to say and pretty obvious that we'll pull from the guys we have that know our system.''

Hillman was listed as a full participant at practice with a hamstring injury, but he told The Associated Press it wasn't an issue and that he hadn't aggravated the hamstring pull that set him back during training camp.

Notes: CB Omar Bolden (concussion) didn't participate in practice. DL Derek Wolfe (thigh), TE Virgil Green (hamstring) and WR Demaryius Thomas (right knee) were limited. RG Chris Kuper (left ankle) and CB Tracy Porter (illness) and DE Robert Ayers (groin) were full participants. ... Chiefs QB Brady Quinn is the first of Denver's trio of 2011 QBs to get a start for his new team. ... Perennial Pro Bowl CB Champ Bailey said flags for helmet-to-helmet hits like the one that cost Ravens S Ed Reed $50,000 should be immediately reviewable on replay like fumbles or TDs. He said it's impossible for a fast-closing defender to avoid hits like this one when the ball-handler ducks a split-second before impact like Pittsburgh WR Emmanuel Sanders did. The league originally suspended Reed for a game, which Bailey suggested was orchestrated: ``Lift the suspension and make it a fine. It kind of lightens the load of a $50,000 fine, right?'' Bailey said. ``It's still excessive. I know Ed personally and he's not a dirty player.'' ... LB Von Miller won his second career Defensive Player of the Week award for his three-sack, two-forced fumble performance against the Chargers.

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Ravens tight end suspended a year or more for violating substance abuse policy

Ravens tight end suspended a year or more for violating substance abuse policy

The NFL announced today that tight end Darren Waller of the Baltimore Ravens would be suspended for a year or longer for his second violation of the substance abuse policy.

Waller was a 2015 sixth-round pick out of Georgia Tech who served a four-game suspension to start the 2016 season for a substance abuse violation. After returning from his suspension last year, he posted 10 catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns in a limited role.

After his 2016 violation, he was quoted as saying [via Ravens.com]:

“There were other personal issues, and [marijuana] was the one thing I always turned to,” Waller said. “It was just about finding more positive outlets for me to do, like talking to people about it and things like that. I’m definitely at a better place with that now.”

Unfortunately for the Ravens, he will miss the 2017 season and potentially longer after the latest violation. It leaves the Ravens down two tight ends from last year after Dennis Pitta was released earlier this month after re-injuring his hip.

MORE RAVENS: Zach Orr considering coming out of retirement

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Former Raven Zach Orr considering NFL comeback after postive health prognosis

Former Raven Zach Orr considering NFL comeback after postive health prognosis

In January of 2017, former Ravens linebacker Zach Orr took the podium at the team's training facility alongside head coach John Harbaugh, GM Ozzie Newsome and defensive coordinator Dean Pees, to announce he would be retiring from football at the age of 24.

Why? Orr suffered a shoulder injury during their week 16 game against longtime rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, which shed light into a condition he's had since birth.

He had a routine MRI, but the Ravens training staff suggested a full body CAT scan as well. The CAT scan reveled Orr had a congenital back/spine condition where one of the upper vertebra isn't totally formed causing there to be an opening. Less than 1 percent of people are born with such a condition and he wasn't aware of it until he suffered this injury.

Doctors told Orr he was at risk of paralysis or even death if he played with such a condition. He also would have never been able to pass an NFL physical, ultimately forcing him to retire.

During his press conference, Orr said this,

"If there's some miracle way where I can play the game, I promise I'd be the first one to grab my cleats again, start back training and try to find a way to get back out there," Orr said.

Well, fast forward to today and it seems that miracle may have happened.

NFL Network reporter Mike Garafolo told Good Morning Football that after getting a second opinion from doctors, and receiving positive news, Orr is considering a return to the NFL.

"I had my mind made up. I was like man, the doctors told me I was done. This is a serious issue. So I'm going to leave it alone. But I just kept hearing that from multiple people and some were telling me to just go check out and seek out some more opinions and things like that and come to find out my condition, it is rare – .01 percent of the people have what I have – but there's no actual evidence or facts that I'm at a higher risk than any other player. And it's actually been documented that a college player who had the exact same thing that I have that returned to play with no problems."

The doctors' real concerns would be if someone with Orr's spinal condition played with a herniated disk. He did suffer from herniated disks last season, but that injury has since diminished. 

MORE RAVENS: 2017 PRESEASON SCHEDULE

If Orr does decide to get back into the NFL, getting signed could be pretty easy. 

When he announced his retirement, he never filed for retirement papers and the Ravens never placed him on their reserve/retired list because they never thought he would play again.

Because of this, Orr is considered an unrestricted free agent and can sign with a team right away. 

Orr had his best season in 2016, where he lead the Ravens in tackles with 133. It's been reported that eight teams have reached out to the linebacker since his announcement and that he will be meeting with the Lions on Thursday.