DENVER (Aug. 16, 2006) -- The limp betrayed Ron Dayne's attempt to act like he was feeling all right.
Dayne, who injured his toe in the preseason opener against Detroit, struggled to climb the steps leading to the cafeteria, using the railing for support.
"I'm feeling better," said the Denver Broncos running back, who has missed the last four practices with the turf-toe injury. "It's getting stronger."
Not strong enough to play in the Aug. 19 preseason game against Tennessee.
"I don't think (I'll play)," Dayne said. "We'll see."
Given the way the Bells -- Mike and Tatum -- are running, Dayne's aspirations of being the feature back in Denver may be fading. Still, he's not quite ready to give up, holding onto hope that it's not too late for him to make a push for the starting job.
"Hopefully I can get back and be ready to go," Dayne said.
Mike Bell, the rookie who was handed the starting job last week, is turning heads, as is Tatum Bell. Cedric Cobbs is coming along and newcomer Damien Nash is looking solid in practice.
Frustaration hasn't set in with Dayne yet. The former Wisconsin great, who rushed for an NCAA Division-I regular season record of 6,397 yards in his career and won the 1999 Heisman Trophy, is maintaining a cool and calm demeanor.
At least on the outside.
"I can't complain," Dayne said. "I can just try to get better; try to get it feeling stronger."
Denver coach Mike Shanahan figured Dayne would be back by now. A few days off and he'd be back to work.
"It's a temporary setback," Shanahan said Aug. 13. "But he should be OK."
Dayne can't even say how the injury occurred. He thought someone may have fallen on the toe during the Lions game, when he had five carries for 12 yards.
One of the reasons Denver cut ties with Mike Anderson was because of his similarity in style to Dayne, who showed flashes of what he could bring to the field last season. His 55-yard run in overtime against Dallas on Thanksgiving Day set up a game-winning field by Jason Elam.
Dayne also had a crucial 10-yard carry on a fourth-and-1 play against San Diego on Sept. 18 that put the Broncos in position for a winning kick.
Once Anderson was out of town, it looked like a two-back race for the starting job -- Dayne and Tatum Bell. Then Mike Bell squeezed his way into the mix, and Dayne fell all the way to third string.
"I had a couple bad days (of practice) and I think that's what kind of set me back," Dayne said. "I've just got to get back on track."