Turf toe may keep Broncos RB Dayne on sideline for preseason game

Updated: August 16, 2006, 7:14 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Ron Dayne attempted to act like he was all right.

"I'm feeling better," the Denver Broncos running back said of his turf-toe injury Wednesday between training camp practices.

But the limp betrayed him. Dayne struggled to climb the steps leading to the cafeteria, using the railing for support. He injured his toe in the preseason opener against Detroit, and has missed the last four practices.

"It's getting stronger," he said.

However, not strong enough to play in Saturday's preseason game against Tennessee.

"I don't think (I'll play)," Dayne said. "We'll see."

Given the way the Bells -- Mike and Tatum -- are running, Dayne's aspirations of being the feature back may be fading away.

The job that once belonged to him is slowly disappearing, though he's not quite ready to wave the white flag. He said it's not too late for him to make a push for the starting job.

"Hopefully I can get back and be ready to go," Dayne said.

When Mike Bell was handed the starting role last week, Dayne was highly supportive of the undrafted rookie out of Arizona. However, Dayne quickly countered that there was plenty of training camp left for him to make his move.

"We all (have) a chance," Dayne said.

With his toe setback, Dayne's running out of chances. Mike Bell is turning heads, as is Tatum Bell. Cedric Cobbs is coming along and newcomer Damien Nash is looking solid in practice.

However, frustration isn't creeping into Dayne yet. The former Wisconsin great, who rushed for an NCAA Division-I regular season record of 6,397 yards in his career and won the 1999 Heisman Trophy, is maintaining a cool and calm demeanor.

At least on the outside.

"I can't complain," Dayne said. "I can just try to get better; try to get it feeling stronger."

Denver coach Mike Shanahan figured Dayne would be back by now. A few days off and he'd be back to work.

"It's a temporary setback," Shanahan said on Sunday. "But he should be OK."

And yet he's still not back.

Dayne can't even say how the injury occurred. He thought someone may have fallen on the toe during the Lions game. He had five carries for 12 yards.

One of the reasons Denver cut ties with Mike Anderson was because of Dayne. They were a similar-style back. Both could be counted on to gain the tough inside yards. Anderson, who rushed for 1,014 yards and 12 touchdowns, eventually wound up with Baltimore.

Dayne showed flashes of what he could bring to the field last season. His 55-yard run in overtime against Dallas on Thanksgiving Day set up a game-winning field by Jason Elam. Dayne also had a crucial 10-yard carry on a fourth-and-1 play against San Diego on Sept. 18 that put the Broncos in position for a winning field goal by Elam.

Once Anderson was out of town, it looked like a two-back race for the starting job -- Dayne and Tatum Bell. After Mike Bell squeezed his way into the mix, Dayne fell all the way to third string.

"I had a couple bad days (of practice) and I think that's what kind of set me back," Dayne said of his demotion. "I've just got to get back on track, that's all I really need to do. Once I do that, I'll be all right."

Now he's struggling to get back on the field.

Dayne said in a low whisper the toe's close to healed and that it's almost ready.

The pronounced limp, though, may speak louder.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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