Stokley impressive as he takes first strides toward comeback Print
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Monday, 30 July 2007 10:11
NFL Headline News

 ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -Those aren't baby steps Brandon Stokley is taking. They're big, swift, dazzling strides.
The nine-year pro has been the most impressive newcomer during the first two days of the Denver Broncos' training camp, starting at split end with flanker Javon Walker. Stokely made one head-turning move after another while convincing himself and his new team that he's healthy again.
Stokley ruptured his right Achilles' tendon last December, leading to his offseason release from the Indianapolis Colts and scaring away potential suitors in free agency.
``A 31-year-old with a bad Achilles'? They weren't knocking down my door,'' said Stokley, who signed a one-year, incentive-laden deal with Denver.
Early indications are he could be the steal of the offseason.
``Brandon Stokley had a great practice out there today,'' coach Mike Shanahan said Monday. ``I liked the way he handled himself. I feel very fortunate to have him on our football team.''
Stokley is getting a lot of looks with Rod Smith (hip) and Brandon Marshall (groin) opening camp on the sideline.
``You've got to show the coaching staff that if somebody goes down, you can fill in for those guys and make some plays and not skip a beat,'' Stokley said. ``So, you've got to put the confidence in the coaches that they can put you in there at any time.''
His good first impression came as something of a surprise to the coaching staff.
``We've watched him for the last month out here, you know, getting into condition and running routes. But you've still got to do it in game situations or going 1-on-1,'' Shanahan said. ``I really didn't anticipate him coming back this quick, especially as quick as he looks, some of the moves that he's made out there.
``Hopefully, he can keep it going and if he does, we've got somebody special.''
Stokley, who underwent surgery just before Christmas and missed the Colts' Super Bowl run, rehabbed in Denver after signing with the Broncos on March 22. He got back on the field just three weeks ago and said he's surprised even himself with his level of play and lack of pain.
``I've got a long way to go, but it's a good start,'' he said.
Stokley said he hasn't even thought about his Achilles' on the field and actually appreciated a big hit delivered by cornerback Domonique Foxworth toward the end of the morning workout.
``I hadn't been hit in so long that it was good to get a little pop in there,'' Stokley said. ``Better Foxy than (John) Lynch.''
Stokley spent the last four seasons in Indianapolis. His best year was 2004, when he had 68 catches for 1,077 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Although he won his second Super Bowl last season, his final year in Indy was forgettable. He also missed six games with a sprained left knee and much of training camp last summer with a sprained left knee. He had just eight catches for 85 yards and a touchdown in 2006.
Stokley won his first Super Bowl title with Baltimore in 2000, and he said he joined the Broncos because he thinks they have the ingredients to help him get a third championship ring. He's eager to play in an offense with the strong-armed Jay Cutler distributing the ball.
He said Cutler, a second-year pro who started five games last season, reminds him a bit of a younger Peyton Manning.
And Cutler's just as big a fan of Stokley's.
``He brings a wealth of experience,'' Cutler said. ``The guy has been in some real good systems and worked with some very good quarterbacks. He can help me out a lot. He's always getting open. You like to have a guy like that and be able to ... throw the ball to him in any situation.''
If Stokley keeps this up, Smith might ultimately be the odd man out. But Stokley doesn't see himself as pushing the 13-year veteran out of a roster spot.
``No, I'm not thinking about that at all,'' he said. ``I'm just going out there every day trying to improve myself. I know if I'm healthy I can play football in this league.''

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