Denver quarterback Peyton Manning said he has contacted Chiefs safety Eric Berry, a fellow University of Tennessee alum who is out for the season and undergoing tests in Atlanta for possible lymphoma.
“I know Eric from his days at Tennessee,” Manning said. “I always go back there and work out … and, of course, playing against him through my career. So I’m thinking about him. I reached out to him and told him he’s in a lot of people’s prayers and thoughts.
“He’s a tough fighter and I know he has a tough fight ahead of him. We’re certainly thinking about him, players that know him, the Tennessee family, the NFL family. He’s a special player and a really good guy as well.”
Chiefs tight end Anthony Fasano (knee) and defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson (calf) returned to practice on a limited basis on Thursday after sitting out on Wednesday. Wide receiver Junior Hemingway (concussion) did not practice.
Also limited on Thursday were: cornerbacks Chris Owens (knee/abdomen) and Jamell Fleming (hamstring), outside linebacker Tamba Hali (knee) and wide receiver Donnie Avery (groin).
The Broncos said running backs Montee Ball (groin) and Ronnie Hillman (foot); linebacker Brandon Marshall (concussion) and cornerbacks Aqib Talib (hamstring) and Kayvon Webster (shoulder) did not practice. Tight end Julius Thomas (ankle) was limited.
The Chiefs are 1-12 lifetime against Manning, including 0-5 since he’s been with the Broncos, and a key reason is their inability to sack him because he gets rid of the ball so quickly.
Tamba Hali had the only sack against Manning in the Chiefs’ 24-17 loss at Denver in week two, and the Chiefs failed to sack him in both games in 2013.
“The stats say you’re going to have a really difficult time sacking him,” said Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. “He’s been sacked 12 times in 440-some passes. Their line does a really good job of not letting free (rushers). He has that great knowledge of, ‘Hey, this could be a problem over here, I’m getting the ball out.’
“Whether it’s completed or completed for a short gain, he just does a great job of not accepting the sack. There’s nothing you can do but rush hard and like we say, you just want to keep working him, working him, working him and if coverage affects him, you get him to hold for a second, you’ve got a better chance. But he’s a master of what he does, and we just have to accept some of that, that it’s going to come out … there’s nothing we can do. We can bring all of them but if he wants to throw the ball out there fast, you just can’t touch him.”
Despite the disheartening loss at Oakland, the Chiefs can still move into a first-place tie in the AFC West with a win over Denver. But a loss could cripple their playoff chances, and the players recognize the urgency to win on Sunday.
“To be home playing against a division team, we know we’ve got to win this game,” said running back Jamaal Charles. “This goal is to go out there and get a win this week. We know we’re going to have a tough challenge with a Hall of Famer (Manning) and a great defense coming in at the time. I think we’re up for that challenge this week. “