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Denver Broncos put Willis McGahee on IR

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Denver Broncos put Willis McGahee on IR

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The Denver Broncos will have to make a deep run in the playoffs to get Willis McGahee any more carries this season.

The Broncos put their 31-year-old running back on recallable injured reserve Wednesday, meaning he can return to practice after missing the final six regular-season games and play in a game after Jan. 18.

That would bring Denver up to the AFC title game.

McGahee tore the medical collateral ligament in his right knee Sunday when he was tackled low by San Diego cornerback Quentin Jammer. Coach John Fox said McGahee won't need surgery, but he decided to put him on IR to give the Broncos some roster flexibility.

McGahee will be replaced by rookie Ronnie Hillman, Lance Ball and former first-round pick Knowshon Moreno, who have combined for 297 yards and two TDs on 82 carries so far, when the AFC West-leading Broncos (7-3) visit the Kansas City Chiefs (1-9) on Sunday.

``We're certainly going to miss Willis,'' quarterback Peyton Manning said. ``To say we're not going to miss Willis would be not telling the truth because he's that good of a player. ... So, Knowshon and Ronnie and Lance have to step up. Everybody else has to step their game up, too, when you're missing one of your top players.''

McGahee ranks fifth among AFC rushers with 731 yards and a 4.4-yard average. He also had 26 catches for 221 yards - just 10 yards shy of his career high set in 2007 in Baltimore - and his 33 career 100-yard games are more than any other active running back.

Denver's offense is built around Manning's pinpoint passing, but McGahee's success despite a career-high five fumbles provided the Broncos with a toughness between the tackles and kept opponents from teeing off on Manning and his receivers.

``The good thing is all three guys have played plenty early in the year. So, they're all familiar with the system and they've all got to pick up their game,'' offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said. ``Every back, every player, has a different style. So, they'll do their thing. We have all the confidence in the world those guys can do that.''

Of the three, Hillman has had the most work - 49 carries for 188 yards - but he's a smaller, shiftier tailback in the mold of Darren Sproles and the Broncos will watch his workload closely.

``Willis has had the most game repetitions, but Lance and Knowshon are veteran players and Ronnie's probably had as much experience as any rookie running back right now,'' Manning said. ``Those guys will step up and do a good job.''

Ball and Moreno have more experience in pass protection, and that's priority No. 1 for any running back in Denver, as evidenced by Ball's beautiful blitz pickup last week when he slid from the left side to the right, sparing Manning a vicious hit and allowing him to throw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker.

``That was a huge block,'' said Manning, who expects those kinds of plays from whoever's in the backfield with him.

Hillman said the prospect of carrying a larger load now means ``you've got to protect Peyton a lot longer. I've been in there a lot, but if I do get an extended role, then it's a little more pressure, being able to do everything right every play that I'm there.''

The Broncos are keeping their options open as far as filling McGahee's spot on the roster. They could promote running back Jeremiah Johnson from their practice squad or sign a free agent. On Tuesday, they worked out former Houston running back Steve Slaton, who rushed for 1,282 yards and caught 50 passes as a rookie in 2008 before injuries and inconsistency took hold.

Fox, however, indicated he wasn't planning on adding another running back before Sunday's game.

``For this week, I think we feel very comfortable with who we have,'' Fox said. ``And that can change based on anything we might do, but I think it's fair to say and pretty obvious that we'll pull from the guys we have that know our system.''

Hillman was listed as a full participant at practice with a hamstring injury, but he told The Associated Press it wasn't an issue and that he hadn't aggravated the hamstring pull that set him back during training camp.

Notes: CB Omar Bolden (concussion) didn't participate in practice. DL Derek Wolfe (thigh), TE Virgil Green (hamstring) and WR Demaryius Thomas (right knee) were limited. RG Chris Kuper (left ankle) and CB Tracy Porter (illness) and DE Robert Ayers (groin) were full participants. ... Chiefs QB Brady Quinn is the first of Denver's trio of 2011 QBs to get a start for his new team. ... Perennial Pro Bowl CB Champ Bailey said flags for helmet-to-helmet hits like the one that cost Ravens S Ed Reed $50,000 should be immediately reviewable on replay like fumbles or TDs. He said it's impossible for a fast-closing defender to avoid hits like this one when the ball-handler ducks a split-second before impact like Pittsburgh WR Emmanuel Sanders did. The league originally suspended Reed for a game, which Bailey suggested was orchestrated: ``Lift the suspension and make it a fine. It kind of lightens the load of a $50,000 fine, right?'' Bailey said. ``It's still excessive. I know Ed personally and he's not a dirty player.'' ... LB Von Miller won his second career Defensive Player of the Week award for his three-sack, two-forced fumble performance against the Chargers.

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter:http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale welcomes second chance at role

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Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale welcomes second chance at role

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Don Martindale wondered if he would ever get a second chance to be an NFL defensive coordinator after his one-and-done disaster with the Denver Broncos in 2010.

The Broncos went 4-12 that season and gave up more points (29.4 per game) and yards (390.8) than any team in the league. Those miserable numbers, not surprisingly, cost Martindale his job.

He latched on with the Baltimore Ravens in 2012 as linebackers coach. After working diligently with several stars, including Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Zachary Orr and C.J. Mosley, the 54-year-old Martindale last week was promoted to defensive coordinator.

RELATED: WHO WERE THE RAVENS' MVP'S IN 2017?

To say he's pleased to be in charge of an NFL defense again would be a profound understatement.

"Without a doubt," Martindale said Thursday. "My family knows it. Everybody knows it. My players know it. I can't wait."

His performance in Denver eight years ago is hardly worth putting on a resume, but Martindale believes it was a worthwhile experience.

"Even though the stats were what they were, I was really proud with how we played," he said. "I'm glad I went through that process because I think that makes me a better coach today. It's like I tell my guys: You either win or you learn."

Martindale's new job with the Ravens carries the responsibility of overseeing a unit that has long been among the best in the NFL, thriving under notable leaders such as Marvin Lewis, Rex Ryan, Chuck Pagano and Dean Pees, who retired on Jan. 1.

"I've been preparing for this job all my life," Martindale said. "It's very humbling, but I understand the pressure and I look forward to the challenge."

Martindale takes over a defense that this season ranked 12th in net yards allowed, first in takeaways (34) and sixth in fewest points allowed (18.9). He has no plans to revamp the unit or change the philosophy, especially since head coach John Harbaugh stressed the need to retain continuity before launching his search for Pees' replacement.

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Martindale will, however, put his own stamp on the unit.

"I think personality-wise, and just calls, there's going to be some things that are the same. And then there are going to be sometimes where I'm going to pressure more," Martindale said. "I just think I have a more aggressive personality in calling the game. Sometimes, too aggressive. That's some of the things I've learned from the past."

His most daunting task will be finding a way to make the defense to come up big late in the game. In 2016, a fourth-quarter collapse in Pittsburgh cost Baltimore a playoff berth. This season, a fourth-down touchdown pass in the final minute by Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton bounced the Ravens from the postseason chase.

"Our mantra has always been to finish," Martindale said. "We're close. Obviously, the last two years, it's been the last play that's knocked us out of it. We are going to work diligently -- all of us -- with our package and situational football.

"That's going to be the next step, I think, that will skyrocket us. That's the big thing that I see. We were really good. Let's make it great."

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Offensive, defensive and rookie of the year awards for Ravens' 2017 season

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USA Today Sports

Offensive, defensive and rookie of the year awards for Ravens' 2017 season

The Ravens' season had it's ups and down, but out of it came some bright spots.

The defense continued to prove dominate and the offense found its groove during the second half of the season, but who stood out the most?

Offensive MVP: RB Alex Collins

Collins was a late preseason pickup after being cut by the Seattle Seahawks and Ravens fans are grateful they let him go. After new acquisition Danny Woodhead injured his hamstring on the first drive in Week 1 and Terrance West injured his calf Week 5 in Oakland, Allen emerged as a saving grace. He finished the season with 973 yards, six touchdowns and 212 attempts averaging 4.6 yards-per-carry. His longest rushing attempt was 50-yards against the Steelers in Week 4, and then in Week 14, rushed 120-yards on their defense. 

RELATED: RAVENS' 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT ROUNDUP

Defensive MVP: OLB Terrell Suggs

This one was a toss up between Suggs and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, but considering the level at which Sizzle is playing at in his 15th season, his 2017 performance is MVP worthy.

The 35-year old finished the season with 49 combined tackles, 12 assist, 11 sacks and four forced fumbles. Suggs ranks 11th in the league in sacks and was voted to his seventh Pro Bowl, something that should be expected from the leader of a defense that finished the regular season ranked sixth in points allowed. During the Ravens' Week 12 matchup, Suggs proved he doesn't age when he strip sacked Texans QB Tom Savage with 4:44 remaining in the fourth, shifting the momentum back to the Ravens who were clinging on to a 23-16 win. He's suffered two Achilles tears and a torn bicep over the last 5.5 seasons but has remained Hall of Fame worthy. As of right now, T-Sizzle has no plans of retiring. 

RELATED: FIVE OFFSEASON QUESTIONS RAVENS MUST ANSWER

Rookie of the Year: CB Marlon Humphrey

The Ravens' 2017 first-round pick stepped up to the plate when starting CB Jimmy Smith's season was over after suffering a torn Achilles in Week 13. The rookie out of Alabama finished the season with 34 combined tackles, four assists and two interceptions. Pro Football Focus graded Humphrey the fifth-best cover corner in the league. QBs only had a 53.5 rating when they threw in his direction. PFF also gave Humphrey a 82.7 rookie rating. 

Humphrey will continue to prove his worth during the 2018 season if Jimmy Smith is still recovering come Week 1.

RELATED: IMPORTANT 2018 OFFSEASON DATES

Special Teams MVP: P Sam Koch

Koch is in his 12th season with the Ravens and he's continuing to prove how efficient that leg of his is. He had a season long of 67-yards and placed 40 of 84 punts inside the 20-yard line. Koch's accuracy earned him AFC special teams player of the week not once, but twice this season. The first came in Week 12 against the Houston Texans when he not only placed five punts inside the 20-yard line, but also faked a punt and threw a 22-yard pass to Chris Moore for a first down. The second honor came in Week 15 against the Cleveland Browns after placing four punts inside the 20-yard line, three of them inside the five. While neither Koch or kicker Justin Tucker were named to the Pro Bowl, Ravens fans never break a sweat when the game is in their hands, or should we say, legs.