Kick to the shins; Brandon McManus not expected to be cleared for Saturday's game

Russolino in line to kick; Callahan likely out for season
Broncos sign Brandon McManus to four-year deal
Posted at 12:01 PM, Dec 17, 2020

DENVER -- Well, that's a kick to the shins.

It now appears that Brandon McManus will not play in the Bills game on Saturday, needing an additional day to be cleared from the COVID-19 restricted list. Earlier in the week, McManus told Denver7 that he believed Monday counted toward the required five-day quarantine period for close contact tracing, which would have made him available. However, coach Vic Fangio explained Thursday that they are moving forward without him, saying he would been able to participate only if the game was held Sunday.

Late Thursday night, a source told Denver7 that the NFL and Broncos deemed McManus’ last exposure as a close contact to a person with COVID-19 was Monday. As such, McManus' 5-day quarantine clock started Tuesday, making him ineligible for Saturday.

So say hello to the COVID kicker, Taylor Russolino.

Signed as a designated survivor, if you will, following the Broncos quarterback-back free debacle against the Saints, Russolino is poised to make his debut. He landed in this spot because of performance and a strong a recommendation. Russolino, 6-foot, 180 pounds, connected on 9 of 10 field goals for the XFL's St. Louis Battlehawks last spring, including a long of 58 yards. Pat McAfee broadcast XFL games and let Broncos special teams boss Tom McMahon, his coach in Indianapolis for six years, know that Russolino checked all the boxes.

The Broncos signed Russolino last week to the practice squad, and kept him isolated from the team. McMahon worked with him individually and feels comfortable Russolino will be ready.

"My confidence level in him is good," McMahon said.

Russolino, who attended Millsaps College, also kicked briefly in the Canadian Football League, converting 2 of 3 kicks for the Montreal Alouettes in 2017. The last time someone other than McManus kicked for the Broncos was when Connor Barth held the job briefly at the end of the 2014 season.

"If Russolino kicks as well as he did in practice (Wednesday), we'll be fine on Saturday," Fangio said.

Callahan likely done
The Broncos' boast two healthy cornerbacks and one nickelback entering Sunday's game. They have been depleted by injuries and the six-game suspension of A.J. Bouye.

Bryce Callahan was eligible to come off the injured reserve for next Sunday's game at the Chargers, but it appears his season is over because of a foot injury. After missing all of last season that required a new screw to be inserted in his foot, Callahan performed at a Pro Bowl level. In 10 games, he netted two interceptions, including a game-changing moment against the Chargers that helped ignite the Broncos' furious fourth-quarter rally.

Callahan, who has one year remaining on his contract at $6.5 million, has never played a full season in his career.

"I don't think the healing is going as well as we hoped. So the chances of him playing (again this season) are down," Fangio said.

The players who will be listed as questionable for Saturday’s game, per Fangio: Graham Glasgow (foot) Melvin Gordon (shoulder) Phillip Lindsay (hip) and Trey Marshall (shin). ...

If Glasgow shows he is only around 85 percent with his foot issue, the Broncos are leaning toward playing rookie right guard Netane Muti. He impressed in his debut last week. "He's strong and mobile. He showed in a few snaps why he has an exciting future," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. Muti, whose college career was sabotaged by foot injuries, showed the ability to wrestle bears in the middle of the field, as Shurmur put it, and deliver cut blocks. He is a unique athlete. All that has held him back is health. ...

Shurmur said it's a reluctant topic, "but sometimes it takes time" for players to develop. No one has patience because wins are needed. But Drew Lock has improved over his past three games. Shurmur stressed that Lock's efficiency is the key, wondering aloud what the Broncos record would be if they had half as many as their league worst 29 giveaways. ...

Kyle Shurmur, who was briefly considered as a quarantine quarterback for the Broncos, signed with the Bengals practice squad. ...

Per the Broncos, Bradley Chubb owns the fourth-most QB hurries/knockdowns (59) in the NFL this season. Chubb has 59, behind only T.J. Watt, Aaron Donald and Shaq Barrett. Chubb has 7. 5 sacks in his first season back following ACL surgery.