Thin at receiver, Broncos call up Willis from practice squad

The receiving-thin Denver Broncos promoted wide receiver Matt Willis from their practice squad, an indication that Eddie Royal is unlikely to play Sunday.

The Denver Post reported the Broncos have ruled Royal out due to the neck injury that has sidelined him the last two weeks.

Coach Josh McDanielsalready is benchingPro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall and tight end Tony Scheffler for disciplinary reasons for the game against the Kansas City Chiefs with a playoff berth at stake.

If a neck injury keeps Royal out for the second consecutive game, the Broncos would be left with a receiving corps of Jabar Gaffney, Brandon Stokley, Brandon Lloyd and Willis. This season, those four players have combined for 58 catches and five touchdowns -- about half of what Marshall has.

To make roster room for Willis on Saturday, the Broncos waived tackle Herb Taylor.

McDaniels announced Friday that he was deactivating Marshall for the Broncos' biggest game of the season, insinuating that the Pro Bowl player was exaggerating the extent of a hamstring injury.

McDaniels said then that he would call up Willis to the active roster if he deemed Royal a no-go during Saturday's walkthrough.

"He's the last guy standing in terms of the practice squad, and if Eddie couldn't do it, then that would be the move that we'd made to make sure that we had at least four active (receivers)," McDaniels said Friday.

Willis is a second-year pro who spent all season on the Broncos' practice squad. He appeared in five games for the Baltimore Ravens in 2007.

The Broncos also might be without tight end Daniel Graham, who's listed as questionable with a knee injury, leaving rookie Richard Quinn as their only tight end. Quinn hasn't played a down in the NFL yet.


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Scheffler, one of several Mike Shanahan-era players whose production has dipped under McDaniels, found himself on the Broncos' scout team this week, evidently as punishment for complaining about his diminished role.

McDaniels' decision to bench Marshall and Scheffler 48 hours before the most pivotal game of the season didn't sit well in Denver's locker room, where teammates were irked by the timing of the move. Anyone who chose to speak on the record, however, was diplomatic, deciding not to publicly take sides.

"It's a coach's decision and Coach is doing what's best for this team," said Graham, who added that he wasn't surprised McDaniels was taking the same no-nonsense approach of his mentor, Bill Belichick.

"We're professionals, we're all here to work," Graham said. "He expects everyone to come here and work, and it's his decision and what he feels is best for the team."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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