Banged-up Broncos bring in Fargas
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The newest member to pass through the Denver Broncos’ turnstile of tailbacks is longtime Oakland Raiders bruiser Justin Fargas.
With their top three running backs sidelined, the Broncos brought in the versatile 30-year-old veteran on Wednesday to bolster their banged-up backfield. The Broncos are missing Knowshon Moreno (hamstring), Correll Buckhalter (back) and LenDale White (leg).
“After seven years in Oakland, that chapter’s done,” Fargas said. “This is a new beginning for me and I’m looking forward to it.”
Fargas didn’t participate in any of the team drills and mostly was an observer in his first practice since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in March, but he did much more in the evening practice.
Wearing orange and blue was weird for Fargas after seven seasons in silver and black.
“It’s a little different, but it feels good,” he said. “It’s always been a great rivalry and the Broncos have always been an organization I’ve respected. And to be a part of it now and have this opportunity feels good.”
Fargas also said his surgically repaired knee felt fine.
The Raiders released him in March after he failed a physical because of his balky knee. He underwent arthroscopic surgery that same month and drew scattered interest from other teams before latching on with the injury-riddled Broncos.
The oft-injured Fargas has been a force when healthy, rushing for 3,369 yards in seven seasons since the Raiders selected him in the third round of the 2003 draft out of Southern Cal. He’s averaged 4.1 yards per carry and scored 10 touchdowns in his NFL career.
Fargas, who packs 220 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame, was a favorite of Raiders coach Tom Cable, who often praised Fargas’ strong work ethic and team-first attitude. Fargas never shied away from contact and often bounced up after big hits.
Fargas said he held no grudges against the Raiders for releasing him rather than pay him a $1.7 million bonus this spring.
“No animosity, but obviously you want to go beat them,” he said. “But there’s a whole lot of other teams we have to worry about, too.”
The decision to cut ties with Fargas cleared the way for Darren McFadden and Michael Bush to get more consistent playing time in Oakland. The Raiders shared the carries with three backs the past two seasons, making it difficult for any one running back to find a rhythm.
Fargas was second on the Raiders in rushing with 491 yards and three touchdowns last season, averaging only 3.8 yards per carry. He had led the team in rushing the previous three seasons, with his best year coming in 2007 when he gained 1,009 yards on the ground and scored four touchdowns.
Fargas will find another crowded backfield in Denver – providing Moreno, Buckhalter and White heal in a hurry.
“That’s one thing I’m looking forward to is working with the backs. I’m not here to work against anybody,” Fargas said. “I know the better you are as a corps, the better the offense is.”
The injury epidemic continued for the Broncos on Wednesday as tight end Marquez Branson, starting wide receiver Jabar Gaffney and starting outside linebacker Robert Ayers failed to finish the morning practice.
Branson was carted off after injuring his right leg, Gaffney left midway through the session with an undetermined injury and Ayers hurt his right arm.
Although Ayers didn’t come off the field, he sat out the rest of practice and had trainers check out his left elbow. Afterward, he declared, “I’m fine.”
Ayers is being counted upon heavily to provide a pass rush without Elvis Dumervil, who underwent surgery this week to repair a torn chest muscle that will likely keep him out until 2011.
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