ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Derek Wolfe put in a full upper body workout in the weight room on Thursday, then the Denver Broncos defensive lineman thanked his teammates and fans for their prayers and well wishes after he was taken via ambulance from CenturyLink Field in Seattle last weekend.
Wolfe said he hopes to be back in the lineup by Denver's Sept. 5 opener against Baltimore, less than three weeks after fears that he had suffered a cervical spine injury.
"It's amazing how much you don't like to practice until you can't do it anymore," Wolfe said. "And it's real humbling whenever you can't really feel your extremities for a while. I get a little emotional about it because this is what I love to do and I couldn't imagine myself doing anything but this game."
Wolfe said he holds no grudge against Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson, who slammed into him after he'd been cut by Seattle's Luke Wilson on a running play. Wolfe's head and neck were compressed by the hit and he lay on the turf for a couple of minutes in the silent stadium before being strapped to a backboard and being taken to a hospital.
Tests were negative and he was allowed to fly home with his teammates after the game.
"Yeah, they clapped for me when I got on the plane," Wolfe said. "I got yelled at for not giving the thumbs-up when I was on the stretcher."
At that time, though, Wolfe wasn't sure he was OK. He said the numbness in his arms and legs didn't start to dissipate until he was on his way to the hospital.
"I could move everything the whole time, it was just everything felt kind of fuzzy," he said. "Obviously, when you shock your system like that, it has to kind of reboot. As of now, everything is back to normal. As soon as the pain goes away, I'll be all right. I've got full motion back."
Wolfe said the right side of his neck is still sore and once that subsides he'll undergo another MRI to get clearance to return to action.
He's determined to make sure this scare doesn't change the way he plays.
"Well, if you play scared, you're going to get hurt again, so don't count on me playing any scared," he said.
The Broncos are counting on the second-year pro who had six sacks from the tackle position as a rookie last year to help fill the void with All-Pro linebacker Von Miller suspended for the first six games of the regular season.
Denver's pass-rush worries were exacerbated this week when defensive end Robert Ayers (foot) got hurt at practice, leaving Malik Jackson and Shaun Phillips as the primary pass-rushers.
Cornerback Champ Bailey ditched his crutches Thursday but still had a walking boot on his strained left foot, and his replacement, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, hurt his back while trying to make an interception in the end zone and hobbled to the trainer's room but returned to the field about 10 minutes later.
"He got a bump in the back. He's fine," coach John Fox said.
Notes: WR Wes Welker (ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis, but he's not expected to play again this preseason. "If we had a game tomorrow, he'd be out there," Fox said. "This is preseason, we're trying to get ready for our regular season and yet still hone our skills to get ready for that." ... Miller practiced some with the starters again and will play Saturday against the St. Louis Rams, when the starters play into the third quarter.
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