Jeff Heuerman's injury means John Phillips, Virgil Green will get plenty of work in opener

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When the Denver Broncos signed tight end John Phillips as training camp opened in July, the thought process was Phillips could be a quality blocker and an experienced sort of insurance policy at the position.

But Phillips is expected to get significant playing time in the Broncos season opener Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers. That's because Jeff Heuerman (ankle) did not practice Monday, the second consecutive day he has missed, so his ability to play against the Panthers is in question.

If Heuerman isn't on the practice field Tuesday, Phillips and Virgil Green would be the two tight ends available against the Panthers. Heuerman was limited with the hamstring injuries for much of training camp and the preseason.

"I'm confident in John, he's played a lot of football," Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said following Monday's practice. "He's an eight-year player, he comes in here and about breaks his dang ankle the first day and gets himself well and he makes this team. John will be ready to play, it's not too big. He really deserved to be here the way he played ... we're really glad he's on the team."

Heuerman's injury is of note because the Broncos, despite his on-going battle with injuries since almost the start of the offseason program, have big plans for him. The Broncos certainly got the tight ends involved in passing game in the preseason. Green tied for the team lead in catches, with 10, in the three preseason games he played, while Green caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Siemian against the Los Angeles Rams.

Also in question for Thursday night's game is wide receiver Bennie Fowler, who continues to work back from an elbow injury. Fowler, who suffered a fracture near his right elbow in the preseason opener in Chicago, was held out of practice Monday.

Also Monday, tackle/guard Ty Sambrailo (elbow) was limited in practice. Sambrailo's on-field work Sunday was the first time he had practiced with the team since July 31.