ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Finally, some good news for the banged-up Denver Broncos: Jake Butt is back.
"I think we went through, albeit a small port of the practice, with no setbacks. So, that's good," coach Vic Fangio said after Butt's first practice since July 20.
Butt had been sidelined by soreness in his surgically repaired left knee since the third day of training camp.
"It's been the hardest thing mentally I've ever had to go through," Butt said, stressing how frustrating it was to have had nine months of pain-free rehab only to get hit with a setback in his return from his third ACL tear.
"But it's part of the game, it's part of the recovery," Butt said. "I don't feel sorry for myself. I'm not going to complain. I'm just going to put my head down and work and get back out there."
The Broncos have been hit hard by injuries, especially at tight end, where Butt has been joined on the sideline at various times by Bug Howard (ankle), Jeff Heuerman (shoulder) and Troy Fumagalli (hip). Also, promising rookie tight end Austin Fort is out for the season after tearing his left ACL in Denver's 22-14 loss at Seattle on Thursday night.
The Broncos also lost fullback Andy Janovich and newly signed receiving back Theo Riddick in that game.
Janovich, whose block sprung Royce Freeman on a 49-yard run against the Seahawks, has a strained pectoral muscle and Riddick has a shoulder injury. Both are expected to miss 6 to 8 weeks.
Janovich's loss is a big blow to an offense designed around establishing the run.
"Jano's the man, point-blank, period," Pro Bowl running back Phillip Lindsay said. "Everything runs through him. He makes terrific blocks. On Royce's big play, Jano was there. On a lot of my big plays, Jano's always there. So, it (stinks) that he has to miss some time. But it's not a season-ending injury. We're going to have him back at the right time."
Meantime, George Aston, an undrafted rookie from Pitt, will do the lead blocking.
"Everybody has to grow up at some point," Lindsay said. "So, I'm excited for him."
The loss of Riddick is a punch to the Broncos' receiving group as much as it is to their backfield because he's essentially a slot receiver, one who's caught at least 50 passes in each of the past four seasons.
And it leaves the Broncos where they were last week before signing Riddick to a one-year, $2.5 million deal following his surprising release from the Lions.
Butt's return was a welcome relief for offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello and quarterback Joe Flacco, who need depth at tight end behind first-round pick Noah Fant as they iron out the new scheme.
Butt, who blew out his left knee at practice last September after missing his rookie season following his second right ACL tear, said he's going to be cautious as he ramps up his work. But he added that he's eager to play in the preseason and earn his roster spot.
"One thing I've learned is how much this game means to me, how much I love this game ," Butt said. "Because there's no doubt in my mind that this would have broken the average man 10 times over, for sure. Somebody (else) would have quit after the first time, definitely the second time and then to rehab the third time and be dealing with these things, I mean, it would have broken a lot of people. But not me. I'm still working, still pushing and feeling good. ..."
"So, there's no doubt I'm going to overcome this third one. It's just taking a little more time than I'd like."
Notes: The Broncos released OLB Jeff Holland and signed CB Rashard Causey, an undrafted rookie out of Central Florida, who had been dealing with a sore hamstring when he was released by the Falcons Aug. 2.
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL