ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – The Denver Broncos, whose stellar kicking game played a huge role in their return to the playoffs after a six-year absence, had to practice most of this week without long snapper Lonie Paxton.
He was excused to attend to a family matter, coach John Fox said Thursday without revealing specifics.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family,” Fox said. “He’ll be day-to-day just like all of our injuries.”
Asked if there’s any concern Paxton might not play Saturday night at New England, Fox said: “We’ll answer that day to day.”
After practicing Tuesday, Paxton missed workouts Wednesday and Thursday. If he’s unable to play against the Patriots, Russ Hochstein might be the fill-in.
“Like any position on the team, we’re well-prepared,” Fox said.
Right guard Chris Kuper used to be the backup long snapper but he broke his left leg two weeks ago and was placed on injured reserve. Hochstein, an 11th-year pro who spent six seasons in New England, replaced Kuper on the offensive line.
“We work so much in the last year, offseason, preseason, that it doesn’t affect anything,” Colquitt said. “He’s such a professional, it’s not going to affect him. We just have to make sure we’re doing our thing. Whenever he’s there, it’s like we never parted.”
Paxton is a 12th-year pro who spent his first nine seasons with the Patriots before joining the Broncos in 2009. He had just one errant snap all season, which resulted in a botched extra point last month.
Prater, who kicked a series of game-winning field goals this season, sounded as though he expected Paxton to play.
“Lonie is a pro. He’s a pro at everything he does,” Prater said. “I’m not worried about Lonie at all.”
There’s a possibility Paxton could get in some work Friday morning when the Broncos (9-8) hold their walkthrough before flying out for their AFC divisional playoff game against the Patriots (13-3).
Prater said Paxton was doing the right thing by taking care of his family first.
“Lonie is a genuinely nice guy on and off the field. I told him if I had family issues, I’d be doing the same thing,” Prater said. “You have your priorities: family, faith and football. I think in that order, too.”
“It’s just tough,” Colquitt said. “Football doesn’t matter if there are personal family issues. That’s more important. There’s more life outside of football than there is in it. It’s more important that everything is good on the home front than anywhere else.”
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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