ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Just hours after Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph said running back Devontae Booker had earned some carries with the starting offense when training camp opened, the team decided to move Booker to the physically unable to perform list.
According to team sources contacted Wednesday night, Booker is expected to miss six weeks with a wrist injury that has bothered him at times almost since the team’s spring OTA workouts. Booker reported with the rest of the team’s veterans on Wednesday, and during his physical, he told the Broncos’ medical staff that the injury had flared up.
The decision was made later Wednesday that Booker would be moved to the PUP list until he is cleared to participate in practice.
The nature of Booker’s injury and the expected length of his absence were earlier reported by Pro Football Talk.
Booker had been told he had earned work with the first-team offense when camp opened. And asked earlier Wednesday about the rotation at running back when practice opened Thursday, Joseph said C.J. Anderson and Booker would split the carries with both the first- and second-team offenses.
Asked if that meant Booker would get carries with the starting offense, Joseph quickly replied: “Absolutely, he’s earned that.”
Booker’s injury likely means Anderson will now get most of the work with the starters until Booker’s return.
“[Anderson has] proven he’s an NFL running back,” Joseph said. “He’s got to prove he can play 16 games and obviously be the bell cow. That’s what I want for C.J., but time is going to tell that. I can’t tell you that from three weeks of training camp, but he’s in great shape. He’s probably in the best shape he’s been in three or four years, and that’s important for him, but it’s a crowded room and iron sharpens iron, so he understands that.”
Booker’s injury will not alter the Broncos’ plan to take it slowly with Jamaal Charles, who signed a one-year deal with the team in free agency. Charles has missed most of the past two seasons with knee troubles.
The Broncos hope Charles, who has played eight games in the past two campaigns combined, is healthy enough for at least spot duty in their offense.
“As for Jamaal, he’s been cleared for everything,” Joseph said Wednesday. “But that being said, we’re not going to push him out there too quickly and burn Jamaal out. We want to continue to go slow with Jamaal, continue to rehab him and get him strong so we can have Jamaal for the season. That’s my goal for Jamaal, to have him ready in September.”
The Broncos also used a sixth-round draft pick on De’Angelo Henderson, who is likely the fastest player they have at the position and did grab the coaches’ attention in offseason workouts. Bernard Pierce and Juwan Thompson also will get additional carries in practices, and it remains to be seen if the Broncos will add another running back in the short term.
Booker, who became the team’s starter last season as a rookie after Anderson went to injured reserve just before Halloween, finished with a team-leading 612 yards rushing last season. Booker had consistently said he felt “more ready” to compete for a starting job this time around.