By Rich Kurtzman
Bumps and bruises are simply part of the game of football, and overall, the Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos are relatively healthy heading into their massive matchup Monday night, but the Broncos still have five players listed on the team’s injury report.
The most major injury is Chris Kuper’s broken forearm, which he sustained August 24. Kuper, Denver’s starting right guard, most veteran offensive lineman and team captain, is still working to rehab that forearm and he’s still 1-3 weeks from making it back to the gridiron.
In his absence, six-year guard Manny Ramirez has stepped in and played well overall. Ramirez shows up on the injury report as well, though his ailing elbow didn’t hold him out at all in practice this week, and he’s probable to start Monday.
Also on the offensive line, guard/center Philip Blake, fourth round pick by Denver in April’s Draft, has a hurt thumb and he’s listed as questionable. He’s a backup and it was unlikely he was going to see playing time anyway, though the three lineman injured hurts Denver’s depth up front.
Nickel cornerback Chris Harris, who’s played very well the last two years for the Broncos, rolled an ankle in the fourth quarter of the win against Pittsburgh in Week One. Harris, who was seen walking around Dove Valley in a boot, was unable to practice all week and he’s also listed as questionable. Missing Harris would be a big blow to the Broncos’ secondary as they take on one of the most explosive passing offenses in the league this week.
Lastly, No. 1 receiver Demaryius Thomas is listed as probable with a sore shoulder. Late in the fourth quarter of that Denver win last week, Steelers’ safety Troy Polumalu wrestled Thomas to the ground with what looked like an Ultimate Fighting move, and the receiver came off the field holding his shoulder. He should be able to play Monday, which is good news for Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ offense, as Thomas is their most athletically gifted receiver, taking a 71-yard touchdown to the house against Pittsburgh.
The Falcons find themselves in a similar position as the Broncos, with five players listed as injured.
Starting cornerback—and Atlanta’s best secondary player—Brent Grimes tore his Achilles tendon in their Week One win over Kansas City and has been placed on injured reserve. It means Daunta Robinson will move over to his spot and Asante Samuel moves from nickel corner to starting on the right side. Denver could exploit the less-gifted cover men, and there’s no doubt that Manning is searching for ways to do just that.
Tackle Tyson Clabo, who’s started the last six years for the Falcons, has a hurt hip, was limited in practice and is questionable to play. If he can’t go, look for Denver’s sack specialists Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller to have a big game disrupting the timing of Matt Ryan and sacking the great quarterback.
Third-year man and starting linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is also listed as questionable with a bum hamstring. Weatherspoon is an absolute beast and arguably Atlanta’s best defensive player, with seven tackles, one sack and one pass defended last week. Without him, the Broncos should be able to run it up the gut more easily and Manning should work his tight ends over the middle as well.
Also, backup linebacker Robert James is listed as probable with a knee.
The biggest surprise on their report is Roddy White, who was downgraded from probable Friday to questionable Saturday. White has a pulled groin, a big problem for a wide receiver that relies on speed to create separation, and it would be a big plus for the Broncos if he can’t play. White is the team’s No. 1 receiver and Kevin Cone, who’s never caught a pass in the NFL, would start in his place if he can’t go.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.