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Montee Ball running with Denver Broncos' starters

Coach John Fox's actions belie his words on the Denver Broncos' backfield picture.

After watching starter Ronnie Hillman fumble for the third time in three preseason games in Saturday's 27-26 victory over the St. Louis Rams, Fox insisted he had not lost confidence in Hillman "whatsoever."

Two days later, rookie Montee Ball was running with the first-team offense while Hillman was given the Darnell Jefferson treatment, carrying a football wherever he roamed.

While it appears on the surface to be an opportunity for Ball to claim a bigger slice of the backfield pie, Fox cautioned against viewing Monday's practice as a demotion for Hillman.

"It's just practice, I wouldn't read too much into anything," Fox explained, via The Denver Post. "We're evaluating everybody regardless of who gets what reps at what number. So, he's a guy that we want to get some touches and we'll go from there."

A running back's most important assignments in Denver are protecting Peyton Manning from getting clobbered and ensuring that the high-scoring offense doesn't lose a possession due to ball-security issues.

Hillman has struggled with the latter while Ball is a work in progress with the former. Don't be surprised if old reliable Knowshon Moreno once again is broken out of the moth balls for the Week 1 starting gig.

"Whoever we keep," Fox promised, via ESPN.com, "we're going to lean on."

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