Montee Ball doesn't see the fire yet, but he sure smells the smoke. Despite being listed as the No. 2 tailback on the Broncos' depth chart, Ball didn't get a carry until the fourth quarter of their 19-12 preseason victory over the 49ers on Saturday.
The third preseason game usually is the one that best models the regular season, and Ball was stuck without a significant role in it.
Broncos coach Gary Kubiak, who has built a career out of getting the most out of running backs, defended his decision to not play Ball much by saying it's difficult to give carries to four running backs during a game.
"Special teams is a big factor with him and (Juwan Thompson)," Kubiak said. "We'll see. I'm fine with Montee."
C.J. Anderson, the Broncos' starting tailback, controlled most of the carries in the first half Saturday with Ronnie Hillman spelling him occasionally. Hillman and Thompson were the go-to backs to start the second half.
It's possible that on gameday, the Broncos will dress only Anderson, Hillman and Thompson, due to Thompson's role on special teams. The team could attempt to trade Ball, or just wait for an injury further up the depth chart before making him active on Sundays.