Remember him? Anderson rejoins Denver’s deep group of backs |

Remember him? Anderson rejoins Denver’s deep group of backs

AP file photoDenver Broncos running back Mike Anderson reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Houston Texans in Denver Aug. 27, 2004. Anderson is back from a groin injury that sidelined him through 2004. A one-time 1,400-yard rusher for the Broncos, he thinks he can do it again, but knows the quest for playing time will be almost as difficult as the rehabilitation from injury.

DENVER – Tatum Bell. Ron Dayne. Quentin Griffin. Maurice Clarett. Somewhere in that mix, Mike Anderson thinks he’ll fit in.In fact, he thinks he’ll fit in right at the top.A nearly forgotten man among Denver’s growing stable of running backs, Anderson returned to the field Monday at the team’s minicamp, fully recovered from a groin injury that sidelined him for all of 2004.In 2000, Anderson was the runner du jour for the Broncos, gaining 1,487 yards. He says now that he’s healthy again, he feels a repeat is possible.”Yeah, of course, I’ve always felt that way,” Anderson said after the first of eight practices the Broncos will hold during their camp at Dove Valley.

“Every year, coming back, starting off a new year, I’ve always felt that way,” he said. “I feel that today. I’ll feel that tomorrow when I wake up. I’ll give it 100 percent, compete against everyone, and may the best man win.” Not surprisingly, with the way Denver shuffles backs in and out, Anderson’s competition has changed dramatically.When he last took the field for a regular-season game, in 2003, he was used primarily as a fullback, thanks to Clinton Portis’ emergence as a star. But Anderson got some time as a backup tailback, and that’s where he expected to return last season, after Portis was traded for Champ Bailey.But Anderson tore his groin muscle in a preseason game and was put on injured reserve before the regular season started. While he was away:-Griffin earned the starting job, then lost it, then suffered a season-ending knee injury.-Reuben Droughns took over, gained 1,240 yards, then got traded to Cleveland.

-Bell, last year’s second-round draft pick, sparkled and positioned himself as the favorite to be the 2005 starter.-Dayne signed a free-agent contract with Denver.-Clarett came on board as the team’s surprise third-round draft pick.”I think that’s great,” Anderson said. “It just makes it so the guys who are already here, you can’t get relaxed. You know, Ron Dayne, Heisman Trophy winner, first-round pick. Maurice Clarett, he’s got a lot of ability and we all see that. You bring those guys in and it makes everyone here compete harder.”Like many Broncos runners before and since, Anderson essentially came out of nowhere to emerge as a star. He was a sixth-round draft pick from Utah in 2000 who played in the band – not for the football team – in high school and delayed college four years while he served in the Marines. When he arrived, he was expected to be used primarily on special teams, but got his chance when Terrell Davis and Olandis Gary got hurt.

Since that magical 2000 season, Anderson has mostly been a backup and a fullback because of Denver’s seemingly endless string of talented runners. He finally had a chance to get back into the spotlight last season. Then, came the injury.It is, in his mind, a completely dead issue now.”I walk into the training room, I don’t want to talk to them about it,” he said. “I did everything I could, did everything they asked of me. Now, I don’t even want to talk about it with the trainers.”Instead, he’s simply glad to be out on the field again, given a chance to compete for his old job. Coach Mike Shanahan said Anderson “looked extremely good, looked healthy” on Monday, and Anderson feels he’s going to get a legitimate shot at the starting spot.”I feel it’s truly an open competition,” Anderson said. “That’s the way coach is.”

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