As the regular season draws near, one of the biggest tasks remaining for head coach Mike Shanahan is determining the starter at running back.
Shanahan has three known quantities in Tim Hightower, Roy Helu Jr. and Evan Royster, each of whom started at least two games last season.
But Hightower is still limited by an ACL tear that ended last season, and Helu Jr. has been shelved with Achilles tendonitis.
"With Tim, we're hoping that he keeps on getting better where he's able to go full-speed so we can see him in a game situation," Shanahan said yesterday. "Helu has got a little tendinitis in practice today."
Their absence opens the door for unproven commodities Tristan Davis and Alfred Morris to impress the coaching staff. Shanahan made it clear that he holds no favorites in the competition and will make his decisions based on results.
"The best players are going to play, and who they are right now I'm not really sure," he said. "It's a very competitive situation and hopefully in the next three games I will have a better indication of who should be the guy."
Helu Jr. was the most accomplished back on the squad last year, leading the team in starts, attempts and yards. He spoke with optimism about his current injury, but noted his frustration in not being able to compete.
"This injury is out of nowhere and it's just been progressing over the week," he said, "I've had it in the past where I started feeling it last year, but it was nothing to this extreme."
Helu Jr. must now balance his desire to return to the playing field with an obvious need to stay healthy for the season.
"I wish circumstances were better, but I also know that this is just the hand I'm dealt and I have to do my best with getting fully healthy before getting out there," he said. "You don't want to carry physical hindrances into the season."