ENGLEWOOD – Broncos coach John Fox continues to be coy regarding the subject of Chris Kuper’s availability for Sunday’s game at New England.
But the strongest indication yet that the longest-tenured member of the Broncos’ offense will return Sunday came after Thursday’s practice, when Fox announced that Kuper had made it through a full practice for the first time since returning from a fractured forearm suffered Aug. 14.
It was also Kuper’s first full practice of the year, period, since the Broncos limited his repetitions during training camp while he worked his way back from a fractured fibula and torn ankle ligaments suffered in the previous regular-season finale against Kansas City on Jan. 1.
Kuper’s potential return wouldn’t be a moment too soon, considering that the Broncos already have an adjustment to make with Dan Koppen replacing the injured J.D. Walton at center after Walton’s season-ending ankle injury Sunday.
“Well, it would be great,” Fox said. “It would be great for him. He’s been through a lot with the ankle in the offseason and the forearm in the preseason. So, at the end of the day, he’d much rather be out here than in that training room, so I’m sure he’s excited about it.”
Kuper’s replacement has been Manny Ramirez, who fared well in Weeks 1 and 4 against Pittsburgh and Houston but struggled in the Broncos’ losses to Atlanta and Houston, allowing two tackles for losses and 2.5 sacks in those games.
HERNANDEZ PRACTICES: While the Broncos have hope that Kuper can play Sunday, the same can’t realistically be said of the Patriots for tight end Aaron Hernandez, who practiced Thursday for the first time since injuring his ankle.
But Hernandez’s absence doesn’t seem to have hurt the Patriots one bit. In two games without him, the slack has been picked up by others — particularly former Bronco Brandon Lloyd, who has 110 yards and a touchdown on 11 catches.
“As long as Tom Brady wakes up, and his arm is working, anything can happen. It doesn’t matter who’s out there,” said Broncos safety Rahim Moore. “He will get the ball in his best players’ hands, and they find a way to win games, man.”
Hernandez had season highs in receptions and yardage in the Patriots’ 41-23 win over the Broncos last December, when Denver keyed on fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski so heavily that Hernandez