By Rich Kurtzman
The Denver Broncos got some good news, and some bad news during Friday’s practice as far as injuries are concerned.
Veteran right guard Chris Kuper returned to practice this week, a positive because the Broncos’ O-line has been hurting since his injury. Kuper fractured his forearm August 14 and Manny Ramirez has been starting in his place. Ramirez has played O.K., but has also allowed multiple sacks over the last two weeks. Kuper is officially listed as questionable, but he won’t be playing Sunday, meaning Denver will have to get by without him for at least one more game.
Also coming back to practice this week was Matt Willis and Nate Irving.
Willis, the fourth string wide receiver, pulled a hamstring last Sunday, was a full participant Thursday and Friday and is listed as questionable to play against the Raiders. If he can’t go, look for Andre “Bubba” Caldwell to be active in that fourth WR spot.
Irving isn’t so lucky. After being blocked into a Texans player, Irving sustained a major concussion and is listed as questionable, and it seems very unlikely he can’t play.
With starting middle linebacker D.J. Williams serving a six-game suspension for using performance enhancing drugs, Joe Mays serving a one-game suspension for his violent hit on Matt Schaub and Irving injured, Denver will have to go deep into the depth chart to field a new starter.
Fellow defender, in backup safety Quinton Carter, is listed as out after dealing with a hurt knee all preseason and regular season to date.
Still others in starting corner Tracy Porter (knee), tight end Jacob Tamme (groin) and starting running back Willis McGahee (ribs) all listed as probable as they are each expected to play.
While the Broncos are hurt, the Raiders are even more injured.
Three Oakland starters—DT Khalif Barnes, CB Shauntae Spencer and WR Darrius Heyward-Bey—are all listed as out for the AFC West rivalry game in the Mile High City.
At wide receiver, with third stringer Rod Streater questionable with a bum neck, it means Derek Hagan could get the start. And without Spencer at corner, eight-year pro Joselio Hanson should start.
Another key injury for the Raiders is tight end Brandon Myers (concussion), the leading receiver with 206 yards, who is listed as questionable. Minus Myers, Oakland may have to rely on blocking specialist Richard Gordon, who has all of two catches in his first two seasons.
So, three of their top four pass-catchers probably won’t be able to go, hurting the seventh-best passing offense by limiting the number of weapons Carson Palmer has to hit. It means the heavy dose of Darren McFadden could be even greater without them.
Seven more Raiders—David Ausberry (shoulder), Tommy Kelly (knee), Sabastian Janikowski (groin), Michael Huff (knee), Alex Parsons (shoulder), Richard Seymour (knee) and McFadden (shoulder)—are all listed as probable, meaning they’ll be suited up and ready to go with a 75 percent confidence.
Yes, both teams are quite beaten up, but with this knock down, drag out battle looming this week, each team could be worse for the wear Sunday evening postgame.
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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.