The Denver Broncos will be without their rookie draft pick running back until the start of training camp after he pulled up with an injury last week at practice. What’s the timeline for his return, and what other players did not participate in Thursday’s OTA practice?

Denver Broncos rookie RB Audric Estime undergoes scope procedure

The Denver Broncos will have to wait until the start of training camp to see more of Audric Estime, the team’s fifth-round draft pick out of Notre Dame.

Estime pulled up during practice last week and finished the day over on the side field. Luckily for him, there is nothing to be concerned about after he underwent a scope procedure to see if there was anything unstable inside of his knee.

According to Broncos head coach Sean Payton, Estime is expected to be back for the start of training camp, which is when the pads will come on and the true evaluation of various position battles, including running back, will come into play.

“No, and I’ll just be honest with [RB] Audric [Estime],” Payton said after Thursday’s practice. “We went ahead and had a PRP [injection]. We did a small scope procedure, just to make sure everything is clean. It is. He’ll be available at the start of training camp. So we won’t see him working through the rest of these OTAs, but on the conservative side, he’s going to be just fine. It was all good news. He’ll stay in rehab, but he’ll be full go at the start of training camp.”

Right now, during OTAs, it’s difficult to evaluate position battles when contact isn’t permitted. Much of the running back position involves constant contact, so how does Payton approach evaluating competition at the positions that require so much of it?

“It’s a good question,” Payton acknowledged. “I think it’s harder for the linebackers, the offensive and defensive line and the running backs. I can think of a number of players, younger players that I’ve had at running back specifically that you kind of think about how they’re going to be when the pads come on, and then it’s entirely different.”

How running backs play when the pads come on creates an entirely different element to the game that we don’t get the chance to see during OTAs. In team drills, defensive plays do run-throughs when getting near a ball carrier, which doesn’t really simulate what a real game scenario will be.

“The evaluation is going to come,” Payton continued. “All of it counts, all of it matters. We’re looking at all of it, but it really clicks in when you start putting the pads on and getting to see. Because those pads sometimes define or undefine certain players, and I think that you mentioned some of the positions as more difficult to evaluate.”

Broncos players who did not participate on Thursday

Aside Estime’s non-participation, the Broncos had several other players who were on the team’s side field on Thursday.

Greg Dulcich continued to work over on the side field with Beau Lowery as he tries to put himself in the best position possible coming back from a multitude of hamstring injuries.

Second-year cornerback Riley Moss was a non-participant after tweaking his back on Wednesday in practice, according to Payton.

“He had a muscle spasm in his back, it was still sore today,” Payton said. “He’ll probably be back out [on] Monday. Today was the first day he missed. He and I both tweaked something in our backs, but I’m sure they were differently related.”

Caden Sterns continues to work his way back from last year’s season-ending knee injury. He did not participate in practice but was present on the sideline in a jersey. The team isn’t planning on rushing him or anybody else back that is coming off of a season-ending or serious injury from last year and will more than likely create a ramp up process as the offseason continues.