SAN DIEGO, JAN. 27 -- The Denver Broncos are apparently still undecided about the status of leading receiver Vance Johnson, who missed the AFC championship victory over Cleveland because of a groin injury.

Johnson, who is writing a rather lengthy column for the Rocky Mountain News, wrote, "I was really scared today, very scared, because I hadn't run fast for a few weeks, not since my injury {suffered against Houston on Jan. 10}. But practice went great. When I went out there I felt good, but I didn't know what was going to happen when I took off running. I took that first step and it felt fine. And I opened it up 100 percent . . . I had a great day and by game time, I should be 100 percent, just like last year going into the Super Bowl."

Now, contrast that with what Coach Dan Reeves told reporters about Johnson's first practice: "Vance, I would say, was not full speed . . . If he's not full speed {by Thursday} we're going to start Ricky Nattiel. Vance didn't have the quickness and acceleration that he needs to have."

'A Lot of Hardship'

Steve Watson, who has become the Lone Ranger since being benched in favor of the third Amigo, Nattiel: "I've experienced more pain this year than I've ever experienced {from broken ribs suffered in a strike-replacement game}. I've also experienced a lot of hardship. I really think having been through so much there isn't anything they can do to me now. I've been through it all." . . .

Reeves has been publicly worrying that his Broncos are too much an offensive team, and has been saying that the last offensive-minded team to win a championship was back in the old AFL in 1960. The Denver defensive players aren't buying the ploy. "He's just setting us up," safety Dennis Smith said. "He's setting us up with that offense remark. If we don't play well, you know where the finger is going to be pointed." . . .

Denver defensive back Tony Lilly laughed when told that Redskin wide receiver Gary Clark supposedly said he runs the 40-yard dash in a relatively slow 4.7 seconds.

"I don't know if he's playing head games but he's not fooling me," Lilly said. "The guy is an unbelievable receiver and he's had one of his better years. I'm not going for that 4.7 stuff." . . .

Mark Haynes, the Denver cornerback who was acquired from the New York Giants before last season, hasn't been talking to Denver reporters until this week. Among other things, they learned Haynes was close to requesting a trade. "I wasn't planning on coming back if I had to ride the bench," Haynes said. "If a trade was imminent, I would have had to pursue that."