ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -The Denver Broncos are running out of time and running backs.
They might have to go into Oakland next week with fullback Cecil Sapp, their fifth option, in the backfield after Andre Hall suffered a high ankle sprain in the Broncos' 37-34 loss at Chicago on Sunday.
Hall, a third-stringer making his first NFL start, was injured on his first carry but toughed it out and finished with 98 yards on 26 carries. When he couldn't go anymore in the fourth quarter, Mike Bell replaced him but fumbled away his only carry and was replaced by Sapp, who gained 28 yards on seven carries.
Coach Mike Shanahan said Hall was ``pretty lucky, it looked like he could have broken it. ... For him to play with that type of ankle injury is really a credit to him to last as long as he did in the game.''
Hall got the start because Travis Henry (left knee) and Selvin Young (right knee) were inactive.
The Broncos expect to hear this week whether Henry will be suspended for a year by Commissioner Roger Goodell for failing a drug test in September. Henry has appealed the result of the test and sued the NFL to remain eligible but he's missed several games with an assortment of leg and rib injuries.
``I would think that something would come down tomorrow, but I'm not positive. I haven't been told anything,'' Shanahan said Monday.
Regardless of Henry's status, Shanahan said he has nary a clue who will line up in the backfield when the Broncos (5-6) visit the Raiders (3-8) this weekend.
``We'll get a better feel on Wednesday,'' he said.
The Broncos might be on the lookout for a free agent such as Wali Lundy, who started eight games for Houston last season and recently worked out in Denver.
Shanahan said Hall had a high ankle sprain, which generally takes longer to heal than lower sprains. But Shanahan wasn't ready to declare Hall out against Oakland.
``Let's not be the doctor yet. Let's wait and see what happens,'' Shanahan said. ``I've seen guys with high ankle sprains come back, different definitions of them, in the coming week, sometimes it takes 3-4 weeks, you never know. I'll tell you more as the week goes on.''
After failing to keep up with San Diego (6-5) atop the middling AFC West, Shanahan said he felt the Broncos have to win their final five games to reach the playoffs.
He hopes to get a boost with the return of No. 1 receiver Javon Walker, who played about eight snaps Sunday in his first action in nearly two months following knee surgery.
``I wouldn't say he's perfectly healthy,'' Shanahan said. ``I think he'll be a lot more ready this week than he was yesterday.''
Walker, who didn't have a catch, said he felt good Monday although ``it's probably something that won't feel 100 percent until after the season's over.''
Despite their revolving door at running back, the Broncos were in position for their third straight win Sunday before blowing a two-touchdown lead in the final five minutes and losing in overtime.
Chicago's comeback was sparked by a blocked punt when Todd Sauerbrun tried to angle it away from Devin Hester, who had returned both a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns in the third quarter.
``We could have overcome those two touchdowns. The thing that really hurt us was the blocked punt,'' Shanahan said. ``The first (punt) was on the 10-yard line and the second one, even if we just punted through the end zone, they've got to go 80 yards. To turn it over on the 18-yard line gave them the time and the chance to come back so that was the most disappointing thing.
``Whenever you kick or punt to a guys like that there's always a chance he can go the distance. Any time you get a big-time receiver, running back or returner that's the nature of the game. But you're hoping not to get punts blocked like we did.''
Shanahan said this one will take years for him to get over, too.
He compared it to a 31-27 loss to Seattle in 1995 in which the Broncos frittered away a huge lead.
``It's always disappointing. Any time you feel like you have a game won and you give it back it sticks with you for a lot of years,'' Shanahan said. ``I go back to Seattle a decade ago and that sticks with me. We have a 21-point lead. It's one of those types of game where if you don't take advantage of an opportunity and you can't close it out it's disappointing.
``But we'll work through it and get ready for the next week.''

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