ENGLEWOOD — Kevin Vickerson thought he'd be back on the football field by now.
Instead, he spends his days rehabbing his right hip, which was dislocated seven months ago in New England, and working on his strength and conditioning so that he hold can up 700 pounds of double teams like he used to when he anchored Denver's defense.
It's not the wait or the weights that are the hardest part for Vickerson, but "watching the Super Bowl," he said, "and not being out there with my guys."
On occasion he finishes his work with athletic trainer Steve Antonopulos and strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson early enough to wander onto the fields at the Broncos training facility.
Those days are bittersweet.
There, he sees teammates who watched the Super Bowl with him from the sideline now back in uniform and much farther along in their comebacks. Derek Wolfe (seizures) and Rahim Moore (leg) are back with the starters, Von Miller (knee) is participating in individual drills and Chris Harris Jr. (knee) is doing work on the side and is on schedule to return to the lineup in training camp.
Then, there are players who didn't even make it out of training camp last summer who are turning heads this offseason like Quanterus Smith (knee), Lerentee McCray (ankle) and Quinton Carter (knee), who add even more depth to Denver's refurbished defense.
Vickerson was in the middle of a stellar season last year when he got hurt in a game at Foxborough, Massachusetts, on Nov. 24. He went on injured reserve but was confident he'd be back for the start of offseason workouts. But April came and went, and so did May, and still he wasn't ready. Now the Broncos have just next week's final few days of organized team activities before they scatter for summer break.
They'll reconvene for training camp on July 24.
"The timetable now is really trying to push toward training camp, a little bit further than that. But there's no definite timetable set in stone yet," said Vickerson, who was cleared medically last week by his doctors in Vail, Colorado, to start running.
His plodding recovery hasn't hindered the ninth-year pro's hopes for a big year in 2014.
"I want to go to the Pro Bowl. I want to be one of the best D-tackles in this league," Vickerson said. "That's never going to stop my ambition to be the best. Just trying to help these guys, the younger guys I have with me. Just bring them along and try to catch up to where I left off."
When Vickerson got hurt last year, he didn't disappear from the team's headquarters. He was frequently seen hopping around on crutches decked out in gear from his alma mater, Michigan State. He shared tips and traded Big Ten barbs with teammates while continuing to tutor first-round pick Sylvester Williams, who replaced him in the lineup, and Malik Jackson.
Vickerson, who added 40 pounds to his 6-foot-5 frame at the request of defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio in 2012, said he's maintained his 330-pound weight since getting hurt.
"I've been off crutches for about 14 weeks, so in that time, I don't think I gained too much weight. But I'm right at 330. That's where I left off when I was playing last year," he said. "Got a little flabby here and there, but it's getting back."
What he wants is to get back on the field, and that's what tackle Terrance Knighton yearns for, too. He's tired of seeing Vickerson without a helmet on his head.
"It's kind of frustrating for me, just because me and him played together early last year and were dominating," Knighton said. "... He still leads. He's in there in the meetings and when we're in the weight room and things like that. I can't wait to have him back, but I'm definitely happy that he's moving around."
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