By Rich Kurtzman
Tracy Porter and Chris Kuper have got to be two of the unluckiest players in the NFL, at least this season. Each one can consider himself a top player at his position on the team, and at times, the entire league. Their Broncos teammates have the misfortune of playing without them again this week, as has been the theme all too much for these leaders.
Kuper broke his forearm in practice, sidelining the seven-year veteran and team captain for five games. After waiting patiently and working tirelessly to come back at full health, Kuper’s forearm healed and he began making an impact right away. The right guard is arguably the best offensive lineman in Denver; the team ran well behind him and he hadn’t given up a sack in three games before hurting himself again last Sunday in Cincinnati. Kuper injured his ankle, quite badly it looked, as he limped off the field and was carted into the locker room. Following the game, it was revealed that he didn’t break the ankle, but it is so severely sprained that he’s out for 2-4 weeks.
That includes this Sunday in Carolina, meaning Manny Ramirez will again have to fill in. Ramirez is a career backup, and it was evident as soon as Kuper left the game that the defensive line was getting a better push. Ramirez is going to have to try to step up against one of the league’s best defensive lines that has 21.5 sacks combined and that guard spot will be a point of contention for both teams.
Likewise, Porter has been unlucky this year as well. The fifth-year cornerback suffered a seizure in August, and was cleared to play when the Broncos kicked off their season against the Steelers. In that game, Porter picked off Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and took the ball to the house for the game-clinching score. His performance was so paramount he was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week, and he continued to play well through the first five weeks. But he’s been out for the last three weeks, and has been ruled out this weekend again.
Chris Harris has stepped into the starting corner role opposite of Champ Bailey, while Tony Carter has moved up on the depth chart as well, to nickelback. They’ve both performed at a high level, upping their respective games as their playing time has increased. While Carolina has the third-least pass attempts of any team, Cam Newton will toss the rock at times, and one of the youngsters may have the tough task of covering superstar Steve Smith. All of Denver’s secondary must understand that when Newton does drop back to pass, he may uncork an inacurate ball, meaning they have to be ready to be ball hawks all afternoon, Sunday.
The other six players listed on Denver’s injury report are are probable, and it would be a huge surprise if any of them don’t play this Sunday.
Wide receiver Eric Decker (thigh)
Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (knee)
Wide receiver Brandon Stokley (knee)
Running back Willis McGahee (knee)
Safety Jim Leonhard (calf)
Tight end Virgil Green (hamstring)
Guard Chris Kuper (ankle)
Cornerback Tracy Porter (illness)
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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.