By Rich Kurtzman
In the National Football League, injuries are a way of life. The physicality displayed on the football field is phenomenal, just how the players accomplish the athletic acts is awe-inspiring. Of course, the brutality of the game leads to bumps, bruises and breaks for every team, and the Broncos are no different.
But overall, Denver’s been relatively lucky injury-wise.
The most important injury has been to guard Chris Kuper. Kuper, who broke his forearm in preseason, missed the Broncos’ first five games this season, which hurt both the run and pass-blocking. Denver’s not very deep on the offensive line, and it showed without Kuper, as career backup Manny Ramirez was noticeably overmatched week-in, week-out, allowing three sacks while being blown up on run plays as well. Kuper made his return in last week’s thrilling win over division rival San Diego, and it wasn’t a moment too soon, as starting center J.D. Walton was lost for the year two weeks prior.
Walton, who had started every game at center for the Broncos since being drafted in 2009, had his ankle rolled up on and snapped by a Raiders’ defender. Luckily, Denver signed veteran snapper Dan Koppen just days before Walton’s injury and the offensive line hasn’t missed a beat. Koppen, who was a Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion with New England, clicked nearly instantly with Peyton Manning, picking up the blocking assignments and the communication needed to excel at the crucial position.
But those aren’t the only hurt O-linemen, star left tackle Ryan Clady has a bum hamstring, which he played through last week. For that unit, this bye week came at the perfect time, as it allows them to all rest and hopefully heal up. Even more importantly, it will give Denver’s D—the much more banged up unit—time to heal.
Before the season even started the Broncos lost defensive tackle Ty Warren to a torn triceps, meaning they’ve missed a big run-stopper in the middle all year.
Quinton Carter, a second-year man, was a starting safety in Week One, but was demoted in favor of veteran Mike Adams. And even though he’s not starting, losing Carter to the IR (knee) hurt the secondary’s depth.
Another defensive backfield man, in nickelback Chris Harris, sat out three games with a hurt ankle. But fortunately for Denver, Harris has bounced back and he picked off two Philip Rivers’ passes Monday night. Harris is a key component to the Broncos’ secondary and he’ll almost certainly come up big again this year.
In all, the Broncos have placed eight players on the injured reserve, fortuitously, the most important one was Walton and they’ve filled the void. No playmakers are on the list, which has kept Denver explosive, especially offensively. And while the team has a bunch of banged-up ballers, each one’s a minor injury and each of them are enjoying much-needed time off the field.
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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.