By Rich Kurtzman
The Denver Broncos are a mile high; currently riding a six-game winning streak and sitting a full four games in first place of their AFC West division.
And as they prepare to take on the 6-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they may be without at least two key players.
Wide receiver Brandon Stokley is an ageless wonder, playing in his 15th year as a professional. Over the years, he’s grown a great rapport with quarterback Peyton Manning that dates back to their days in Indianapolis, and the two are friends on and off the field. This season, Stokley’s been Manning’s go-to guy on third downs as a reliable receiver that the quarterback knows will convert on the all-important down. But Manning may not have his right hand man this Sunday, because Stokley injured his right wrist and hip during last week’s win in Kansas City. In the third quarter, the receiver went deep up the seem of the field and was hit hard just as the ball arrived, jumping up off the turf immediately, clutching his wrist in pain. He came back to play more in that contest, but he’s been a limited participant all week in practice and he’s officially “questionable” to play this Sunday. Although, Stokley doesn’t miss much game action, and he’ll have to really be hurting to sit Sunday.
Also “questionable” is backup defensive end Robert Ayers. Ayers has dealt with the loss of his father this week and went home to be with his family, missing all three practices. He’s been backing up Elvis Dumervil and getting into games, recording 12 tackles and a sack this season. The Broncos boast the best defensive line in all of football, sacking opposing quarterbacks 37 times total on the year, and Ayers is a rotational guy that gives them added depth at the position.
A third questionable player is backup tackle Chris Clark, who sees most of his playing time on special teams.
Of the other six players listed, all are listed as “probable” and expected to be ready to go at kickoff.
Offensive starters Chris Kuper (ankle) and Demaryius Thomas (knee) are crucial to the unit’s profound production, and it’s great news they will play, as will backup guard Manny Ramirez (back) and third-string tight end Virgil Green (hamstring).
The most optimistic news surrounds starting cornerback Tracy Porter, who’s battled with post-seizure symptoms all year. He practiced fully all week long and could finally make his way back to the field this week. Although, with the improved play of Tony Carter and Chris Harris, it’s unknown if Porter will have a starting spot to come back to.
Lastly, backup defensive lineman Malik Jackson (finger) may see increased time if Ayers does have to sit without any preparation.
Tight End Virgil Green (hamstring)
Defensive Lineman Malik Jackson (finger)
Guard Chris Kuper (ankle)
Cornerback Tracy Porter (illness)
Guard Manny Ramirez (back)
Wide Receiver Demaryius Thomas (knee)
Wide Receiver Brandon Stokley (wrist/hip)
Defensive End Robert Ayers (not injury related)
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Broncos news, see CBS Sports Denver.
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.