Healing Broncos to influence roster choices

INDIANAPOLIS -- As the Broncos work through their coming roster decisions, a big part of the process will be the recovery of their injured players.

And both head coach John Fox and executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway said at the NFL scouting combine they are optimistic on all fronts that those players are on track to not only bolster the depth chart, but several are in line to have prominent roles.

“It was fun putting the magnets back on the board, taking them off [injured reserve] and putting them back on the board," Elway said.

Leading the way is left tackle Ryan Clady. The former All-Pro recently had all of the screws and pins inserted into his surgically repaired foot removed, and Elway said Clady has stepped up his workouts.

“[Clady] is good," Elway said. “He finally got all of the hardware out of his foot."

The Broncos also believe defensive end Quanterus Smith, who tore his ACL during his senior season at Western Kentucky, will be at full speed during the team’s offseason work. After participating in training camp last summer, Smith spent his rookie season on injured reserve.

With Von Miller in the early stages of his own recovery from ACL surgery – he suffered the injury in the Broncos’ Week 16 win in Houston – and Shaun Phillips an unrestricted free agent, the Broncos will need Smith to contribute in the rotation in the defensive front as quickly as possible.

“The offseason helped him,’’ Fox said.

Fox said at the combine he also was hopeful that safety Quinton Carter can be in the mix in the secondary after spending almost two full seasons on injured reserve. The Broncos have six defensive backs who will be restricted or unrestricted free agents in the coming weeks.

Carter has had multiple surgeries on his troublesome left knee, including a microfracture procedure. Carter started 10 games as a rookie in 2011, finishing with 49 tackles and had interceptions in back-to-back playoff games.

He played in just three games in 2012 before he headed to injured reserve and was placed on injured reserve again last August.

“He was a pretty good player as a rookie -- [some] people don’t remember that,’’ Fox said. “No swelling, which is a big thing for that procedure. He’d be a real bonus if he comes through it.’’

Fox also said the nature of cornerback Chris Harris Jr.'s injury could help Harris’ return to the field, as well. Harris suffered a torn ACL in the Broncos' divisional round win over the San Diego Chargers, but Fox said the ligament wasn't completely torn.

“One thing about Chris is a little bit unique because it wasn't torn all the way," Fox said.