NFL Football

Broncos place oft-injured Menelik Watson on IR

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

By ARNIE STAPLETON

AP Pro Football Writer

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Menelik Watson's time in Denver is over because he's hurt and buried on the depth chart.

The Broncos placed Watson on IR Monday with a chest injury and intend to release him once he's healthy. That means the Broncos will take a $6.83 million salary cap hit this year.

Coach Vance Joseph said Billy Turner, Elijah Wilkinson and Max Garcia have all had good training camps while Watson's been in the trainer's room.

"It's hard to make a football team injured and you've got three or four guys behind you playing good football," Joseph said. "So, it wasn't about fit. It was more about Billy and Eli playing good football. And Max Garcia. Max is having a hell of a camp. He's playing more like a starter. So, it's more about those guys than it was Menelik not being a fit."

With the acquisition of ninth-year veteran Jared Veldheer this offseason, Watson was moved to backup guard after playing in just seven games as Denver's starting right tackle last season.

Watson, whose $5.5 million salary for 2018 was guaranteed in March, didn't play in either of the Broncos' preseason games this summer after getting hurt in training camp.

As part of a plan to toughen up the trenches, the Broncos signed the athletic Watson to a three-year, $18.375 million contract last year even though his four seasons in Oakland were marred by calf and groin injuries and a ruptured Achilles tendon that sidelined him all of 2015.

His long history of injuries wasn't a red flag for Denver, Joseph said last year, explaining that most of Watson's injuries were soft tissue types and "those things are preventable."

After averaging just 6.75 games a year with the Raiders, Watson played in seven games for Denver last year before going on IR with a torn foot tendon. He also was bothered by a strained calf early in the season.

Born in Manchester, England, Watson began his collegiate career playing basketball at Maris College before transferring to Saddleback Junior College in 2011 and playing football for the first time. He played one season at Florida State in 2012 and the Raiders selected him in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft.

FLAG FOOTBALL

Halfway through the preseason, Joseph said his coaches and players are no clearer about what constitutes a foul under the league's renewed emphasis on eliminating helmet hits .

He suggested some of the flags that were thrown Saturday night in the Broncos' loss to the Bears were actually clean hits that were incorrectly penalized in a game that featured 28 fouls for 293 yards .

"It's really gray right now and I think they're calling it conservatively because they want to get it right. They want to change the behavior, but the problem I'm having with the call right now is it's been bang-bang plays and it's hard to tell if the head's hitting the body," Joseph said.

"And that's the rule, right? It's not about if the head's down. If it hits the body, that's the penalty. So, with (rookie cornerback Isaac Yiadom), his head was down but it didn't hit the body. It was placed to the side of the receiver and it was shoulder on the body - not a foul."

Joseph said Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller's flag for hitting Broncos fullback Andy Janovich wasn't a foul, either.

"It was head down but shoulder hit the pad. Not a foul," Joseph said. "The foul is when the head hits the body. And that's what we have to be careful of. But it's hard to tell because you tackle with your shoulder but it's led by the head. So, it's hard to officiate that really cleanly. So, we'll see how it shakes out but right now it's gray for us and the players."

Janovich lowered his helmet and ostensibly could have been whistled for a 15-yarder himself.

"I don't know, I mean he's defending himself," Joseph said. "Fuller's a cornerback coming to hit him and what's he going to do? Keep his head up and take it in the chin? So, he drops his shoulder. The head's attached to the shoulder. The head's going to drop."

Joseph had a friendly suggestion for officials .

"We have to be careful. We have to use common sense. We know what spearing looks like. So, call spearing. But don't call good football tackles," Joseph said.

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Updated August 20, 2018

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