ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —The Denver Broncos might have to face former quarterback Kyle Orton with two backup safeties if Brian Dawkins and Quinton Carter can't play in Sunday's showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Although Carter (hip) participated in the entire two-hour workout Wednesday, Dawkins was held out of the team's final full-padded practice of the regular season because of a neck injury that has bothered him for much of the month.
Dawkins didn't address his availability for Sunday but did dismiss speculation that the injury threatens his stellar 16-year career that includes eight Pro Bowls.
Carter wasn't available during the locker room access period.
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Dawkins, Carter and nickel cornerback Chris Harris (neck), who leads all rookie defensive backs with 62 tackles, all were knocked out of last week's loss at Buffalo.
"I'll definitely be ready to play this week," said Harris, who was limited at Wednesday's workout. "The body feels like everybody else's does in the NFL at this time of the season but you've just got to fight through it and play your game."
If Dawkins can't play Sunday, David Bruton would start at strong safety even though he was limited at practice because of a nagging Achilles injury.
If Carter is out, fellow rookie Raheem Moore, who began the season as the starter but was demoted for his poor tackling technique, would get the nod at free safety.
Facing backups in the secondary would seemingly be a big break for Orton.
"Well, what we look at and what we talk about during the week is we assume everybody is playing," Chiefs interim coach Romeo Crennel said, "and if somebody doesn't play, I don't think that we can ever say, 'OK, that's great,' or anything like that because I know that in the NFL, the guy who steps in is a good player. So, you never underestimate your opponent."
Still, there's no denying the drop-off.
Aside from his unparalleled leadership and his knack for deciphering offenses, Dawkins has 51 stops and three sacks and Carter has 46 tackles and a sack.
Bruton has just eight tackles, five of which came last week after Dawkins went down, and Moore has recorded 13 tackles in the last three games after being a healthy scratch against Minnesota on Dec. 4., which followed a month without a single tackle.
"You know what, everybody has to believe and everybody has to stay ready. That's all you can do," Moore said. "Get healthy, stay ready. It's not going to be easy. It's been a tough season. And that's why you have to stay ready and believe and when it's all said and done, whoever's out there has to make some plays and do what he can to help this team conquer."
The league on Wednesday changed one of Tebow's four interceptions against the Bills to a sack and fumble, but it still marked the first time he had three picks in either the NFL or college.