ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The tight end turnstile keeps spinning in Denver, where Julius Thomas is hurting but Virgil Green is on the mend.
Both are listed as questionable for Sunday's showdown with the Miami Dolphins (6-4).
Thomas leads the league with a dozen TD catches but he was unable to practice Friday after showing up with helmet in hand and every intention of working through the sprained left ankle he sustained in St. Louis last week.
Green, the team's best blocking tight end, expects to return to the lineup this weekend after missing three games with a strained right calf, which happens to coincide with the offensive line's nosedive.
"My body feels as good as it's felt since camp started," said Green, who pulled up lame in practice earlier this month, re-injuring a calf that had bothered him in training camp.
"It wasn't as bad as camp, but it just took a lot of time this time to heal up," Green said. "Everything starts from down there. If it were a strained quad or a strained hamstring, you could put a sleeve on it and go. But all your power starts from your calf."
Green said he started feeling better last week but the training staff suggested he needed another week to let it fully heal so it won't be a lingering problem down the stretch.
He could have help shore up the run-blocking and blitz pickup that's come under heavy criticism since the Broncos (7-3) made wholesale changes on their offensive line three weeks ago. They've gone 1-2 since and lost their air of Super Bowl favorite.
"Absolutely, I can help, not just protection-wise but in the run game. That's something that I take a lot of pride in," Green said. "It's something I feed of off. I love to hit. I'm smiling right now — just the thought of hitting somebody is a great feeling."
Green doesn't just want to be known as a good blocker. He said if Thomas can't play, he hopes the Broncos allow him to display his versatility as a pass-catcher and even runner at times.
While the Broncos will welcome Green's blocking prowess up front, they'd sorely miss Thomas, who's a matchup nightmare for defenses.
"Julius is the one player where you are able to get really unequal matchups," offensive coordinator Adam Gase said. "He's a tough matchup whether it's a safety or linebacker. You saw against New England they put a corner on him. That just shows you how challenging it is for defenses to plan for him."
In Green, the Broncos have a different style of tight end who's valuable in other ways.
"I'd love for J.T. to play. I really don't know where he's at right now, but if he doesn't go, I feel like it's an opportunity for me to show that I'm not just a blocking tight end," Green said. "I can catch. People know I can run the ball as well, so it's an opportunity for me and I have to jump all over it."
Green, a fourth-year tight end from Nevada, said he feels he can be a wild-card for the Broncos as they try to get back on that Super Bowl Express.
"I do feel that way because a lot of people don't know much about me. They just know that I can block," Green said. "But people who do know about me know that I'm a very athletic guy. I just have to take advantage of the opportunities that the offense gives me and that Peyton Manning gives me."
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