ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Batman might have to go it alone Sunday.
Elvis Dumervil’s sidekick, Von Miller, missed practice Wednesday and Thursday after undergoing a surgical procedure to repair a strained ligament in his right thumb, which he hurt at San Diego last weekend.
Although the Broncos are confident he’ll be able to play Sunday at Minnesota, if they choose a more cautious approach for the stretch run, they’d be without half of their 1-2 pass-rushing punch against the Vikings.
Miller has dubbed the duo “Batman and Robin” and the bookend pass-rushers have helped the Broncos go 5-1 since Tim Tebow took over as their starting quarterback.
“He’s a big part of what we do,” Dumervil said. “I don’t know the whole logistics of it yet, but if he’s not able to go, then guys have to step in and try to elevate their game.”
Even if he does play, he’ll be affected, Dumervil said.
“The thumb is crucial. I mean, I had a pinkie injury a couple of years ago and as a rusher you need your hands. It’s very important. But I’m sure he’ll fight through it and get healthy soon so we can get him back,” Dumervil said.
Veteran linebacker Mario Haggan, one of Miller’s mentors, figures to get the rookie’s snaps whenever he’s on the sideline.
“I play this game to be ready. If my number is called this weekend, I’ll be ready,” Haggan said.
Linebacker Wesley Woodyard is confident Miller won’t be in street clothes Sunday, however.
“I’m sure he’ll be able to tough it out and be able to play,” Woodyard said. “For him using his hands rushing the passer, that’s something that is going to be really tough for him to get used to. But he’s a tough guy and he’ll be able to work through it.”
Miller’s standout season has made him the runaway leader for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. His addition has allowed Dumervil to come back strong from a series of injuries, including a torn chest muscle that cost him all of the 2010 season. Likewise, Dumervil’s presence has helped Miller make an immediate impact.
And the pairing has given the Broncos a pass rush like never before.
“It’s huge,” Dumervil said. “We’ve got two guys that come off the edge, it creates issues.”
Along with plenty of quarterback sandwiches.
Miller was injured in Denver’s 16-13 overtime win at San Diego but stayed in the game and made the play of the day when he stuffed running back Mike Tolbert for a 4-yard loss just before Nick Novak missed a 53-yard field goal that would have won it. Earlier, he used his right arm to thwart a pass by Philip Rivers and snuff another promising drive by the Chargers.
Miller was the second overall pick in the NFL draft out of Texas A&M and has lived up to his billing, recording 10 1-2 sacks and collecting 58 tackles and one Defensive Player of the Week honor.
He’s one sack shy of Rulon Jones’ team record set in 1980 and four shy of Jevon Kearse’s NFL rookie record set in 1999.
With Miller and Dumervil pushing the pocket, the Broncos have turned around their season following a 1-4 start. For the first time since 1977, they’ve won four straight games in which they entered the fourth quarter within three points of their opponent and on Sunday they’ll go for their first five-game road winning streak since 1998, when they won their last Super Bowl.
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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