Vance Joseph: C.J. Anderson may not be ready for start of offseason program

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson has consistently said he would return from last October’s knee surgery “better than ever.’’

But Broncos coach Vance Joseph said at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix this week that Anderson may not be ready to participate in the early stages of the offseason program. Because the Broncos have a new coach in Joseph, they can start their offseason program as soon as April 3, but Joseph has informed his players that the team will open the conditioning-only phase of the program on April 10.

Asked this week if Anderson would be ready for the start of OTAs -- organized team activities, which are the second phase of the offseason program and can include some on-field drills in position groups -- Joseph said that was unclear.

“I’m not sure,’’ Joseph said. “He’s working in that direction. He’s there every day working, so hopefully. But, he’s a veteran player. If he’s working in OTAs in the middle part of it, we’ll be fine with him in the fall.’’

Anderson had surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee in late October and finished the season on injured reserve. He suffered the injury during an 11-yard run in the team’s win over the Houston Texans just before Halloween.

He briefly left the lineup and then returned to finish out the game. He rushed for 107 yards on his 16 carries in the win and it was the Broncos’ only 100-yard rushing game of the season.

The Broncos matched the Miami Dolphins’ $18 million offer sheet a year ago and his contract runs through the 2019 season. He is scheduled to count $3 million against the salary cap in the coming season and does have a $100,000 workout bonus that would hinge on his attendance in the offseason program.

Anderson has been doing his injury rehab at the team’s suburban Denver complex throughout the offseason. Anderson and Devontae Booker currently project to the be the team’s top two running backs, but the Broncos are expected to take a long look at a deep class of running backs in this year’s draft as well.

Joseph said he believes a retooled offensive line will help improve the team’s run game -- the Broncos were 27th in the NFL in rushing last season.

“It starts [in the offensive line],’’ Joseph said. “We have to block better up front. C.J. is very capable. Even Booker in the last month of the season showed what he can do. So, we have two backs that will run downhill, but we’ve got to block better up front and we will.’’