DENVER -- Broncos rookie running back Mike Bell was told to
see Mike Shanahan in his office Sunday evening.
As Bell nervously climbed the stairs, different scenarios raced
through his head.
All of them negative.
"I was shaking," Bell said.
Bell was shaking with excitement after Shanahan informed him
he'd been elevated to the top running back position. Bell couldn't
believe he'd bypassed Ron Dayne and Tatum Bell. On Monday, Mike
Bell was running with the first-team offense. Tatum Bell is second
on the depth chart and Dayne third.
"This is a dream come true," said Bell, an undrafted rookie
out of Arizona who grew up a Broncos fan. "For him [Shanahan] to
give me the opportunity to be the starter [for] a great organization
like this is a blessing."
Bell's leap to the top of the depth chart is even quicker than
that of Terrell Davis, who came into camp as a sixth-round draft
pick in 1995 and won the starting running back job by the first
week of the season.
Bell, who grew up idolizing Davis, earned the job -- at least for
now -- before playing a single down.
"He's been real impressive," Shanahan said. "It is very
close, and it could change day by day, week by week, but we felt
like Mike deserves a chance to work with the first team and take a
look to see if he can keep it."
Bell will start Friday in Denver's preseason opener at Detroit.
"Hopefully he can do it in a game situation," Shanahan said.
"You never know if a guy can do it live."
Dayne said he saw it coming days ago based on Bell's
"Mike has been out here killing practices," Dayne said.
He is impressed by Bell's youthful energy.
"He could be dead tired and he's still going," said Dayne, the
1999 Heisman Trophy winner out of Wisconsin. "That's what I really
like about him."
Bell entered camp as the fourth-string running back but quickly
impressed the coaching staff when they went back and analyzed film
from training camp. He simply stood out among all the backs.
"Mike [Shanahan] sent a message to the team that practices are
important and we do evaluate every play, every snap on film and
make decisions on that," assistant head coach Mike Heimerdinger
"We're making this move after nine days [of practice] because
he's had the better practices. If he can hold it, fine. If he
can't, the other two guys will push him. We expect the other two
guys to push him and take the position back."
Not if Bell has anything to say about it.
"A lot of people in this situation will get complacent, but Ron
and Tatum are great backs so they're going to be pushing and
pushing, so I've got to keep pushing and pushing. Ultimately, it's
going to be good for the team's success."
Heimerdinger downplayed speculation the move was made to
motivate Dayne and Bell. The battle for the top spot appeared to be
between Bell and Dayne since last year's leading rusher, Mike
Anderson, was let go in the offseason.
"I don't think it was motivation," Heimerdinger said. "Mike
After Monday's practice, Dayne jogged around the field with Mike
Bell. The two chatted and joked as they ran a series of sprints.
"I always pump him up," Dayne said. "I even told him before
we got to the [depth chart], 'Man, the way you're practicing
and looking now, I wouldn't be surprised if you're one,'" Dayne
But Dayne's not admitting defeat. Neither is Tatum Bell, who
wouldn't talk after practice. There's still plenty of camp left to
win back the starting job.
"We all are practicing pretty good, but Mike got the edge in
practice so far," Dayne said. "Both of us [Dayne and Tatum Bell]
have got to pick it up, keep going and press the young guy."
As Mike Bell spoke with reporters Monday, he couldn't help but
flash a giant grin. Asked if he expected this, he just shook his
"Never, never, never," Bell said.
Yet he won't let the promotion go to his head.
"Coach Shanahan is a great coach and I respect his decision,
but I still have got to go out there in the preseason games and
show what I can do," Bell said.