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Gazette Premium Content KLEE: Who's on first? Better yet - who's at RB for Broncos?

By Paul Klee Updated: June 17, 2013 at 9:43 am

DENVER - As the Broncos wrapped up their minicamp at Dove Valley, a funny thing happened with the running backs.

A swarm of media swamped Montee Ball, the rookie, beneath an octopus of digital recorders and TV cameras.

Meanwhile, the running back who would be the starter right now, Ronnie Hillman, barely drew a crowd. Same for veteran Knowshon Moreno.

Confusing? I thought so, too.

So let's try to clarify any confusion with the Broncos running back situation - starting with the sudden release of Willis McGahee, the former starter.

Why was McGahee cut loose?

Foremost, he's not healthy. I have it on good authority that's what the Broncos believe. It's why McGahee was afforded only limited carries in the mandatory minicamp. It's the No. 1 reason he's on the job market for a new gig.

I believe John Fox when he says McGahee's decision to play hooky from their voluntary OTAs was not the motivation behind cutting the running back from the team in June.

"That has nothing to do with it," Fox said.

Here are the leaders still standing in the clubhouse:

Hillman, a scatterback who earned brownie points with coaches in the playoff loss to Baltimore. Ball, the second-round pick who impressed Peyton Manning with his eagerness to stay after practice for extra work. And Moreno, the former first-round pick.

In this brief window with Manning at quarterback, are you comfortable with those options?

I still worry over the lack of a powerful ballcarrier. Someone who can deliver a hit as well as he can take one. The Ravens knew Hillman was the best option in the running game. They focused on defending the pass and upset the finesse Broncos in the playoffs.

"I'm trying to push to be the starting running back," Hillman said.

"I want to be the starter," Ball said. "That's my goal."

One observer's too-early prediction: Hillman is the starter for the season opener. Ball assumes the position by the end of September. We see plenty of Moreno, in part because he's their most reliable pass-blocker and protecting Manning is priority No.?1.

Move forward, Nuggets

George Karl as a coach and a gentleman is worthy of respect.

So we won't get into his parting shots at the Nuggets on his way out the door.

One of Karl's strengths is the ability to distinguish a good player from a bad player. I tend to think Evan Fournier, the second-year guard, has a bright future in the NBA. On his way out, Karl does, too.

"Evan is going to be a hell of a player," Karl said on Denver radio station 104.3 The Fan. "I think he can turn into a starting player in the NBA, and maybe even a little better."

The NBA is still a players league. For the Nuggets, the development of their young talent is more important to their future than who will be their next coach.

Former Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins is scheduled to interview with the Nuggets next week, Yahoo! Sports reported.

Here's one issue with hiring Hollins. He won big in Memphis with a veteran starting lineup. His Grizzlies starters have played in the NBA for an average of eight years.

The Nuggets starters average just over five years in the league. And that's including nine-year veteran Andre Iguodala, whom I don't expect will be in a Nuggets uniform next season.

QB to QB

It's been one year, two months and and 25 days since Manning ignited a power shift in the NFL by agreeing to become the next quarterback of the Broncos.

Manning left the Broncos minicamp flanked by the man who signed him - John Elway, who shared a good laugh with Manning as they walked to the Dove Valley parking lot.

I learned both quarterbacks have an affinity for pastel golf shorts.

I also learned Manning doesn't only drive a Buick on TV. He drives one in real life, too.

No love lost

Wes Welker's return to Gillette Stadium in Week 12 will be more than just another ballgame to the new Broncos wide receiver.

When the Broncos play at New England, let's set the over-under on Welker receptions at 12 - double his per-game average as a member of the Pats.

I sense a touch of spite when the topic switches to the Patriots.

Asked if he has any advice for Tim Tebow in New England, Welker kept it short: "No, I don't. Just good luck."

Welker has been quick to avoid comparisons between the organizations. Pats owner Robert Kraft told reporters his club offered more money than Denver. Welker bolted, anyway.

"I know in Denver we have high expectations and people have high expectations for us," Welker said.

-

Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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