By Rich Kurtzman

For athletes who spend a life preparing, injuries are a cruel reality.

Last week, the Denver Broncos saw one of their key starters go down in pain for a second time this season. Danny Trevathan, the starting weakside linebacker, broke a second bone in his left leg last Sunday. In training camp, Trevathan broke the bone just below his knee, and this time it was the bone just above his left knee.

In response to the injury, Denver placed the third-year player – one of the defense’s top performers – on the Injured Reserve with a designation to return. It means for now he’s off he active roster, which allowed the Broncos to promote Shaquil Barrett to the 53-man squad. In Trevathan’s place on the field will be Brandon Marshall, a third-year player himself, who’s currently leading the team in tackles due to filling in for three games already.

Besides Trevathan, the only player on the team’s injury list who will not give it a go is Montee Ball, who is still nursing the sore groin from the win over the Arizona Cardinals. For running backs, leg injuries are the most difficult to deal with because they take so much time to heal and backs ask for so much power, explosion and balance from their lower half.

Ronnie Hillman will start in Ball’s place, and Hillman rushed over the century mark for the first time in his career last week, a win over the New York Jets and his first road start. Juwan Thompson, who’s listed as probable with a sore knee, will also likely see some carries.

As for the San Francisco 49ers, they’re banged up beyond belief.

First off, NaVorro Bowman – arguably their best defender – is on the physically unable to perform list. Then, look over to the middle linebacker spot, and Patrick Willis is out with a bad toe. And on a non-injury related problem, Aldon Smith is still suspended. That means the 49ers, who are known to have one of the best and most physical defenses in the NFL, are without their entire linebacking corps.

Three more defensive backs – Tramaine Brock, Chris Culliver and Jimmie Ward – are all questionable with various injuries, while 13 in total are listed for San Francisco.

What it means for Denver and their vaunted passing attack is that Peyton Manning should have ample time to pick apart the 49ers soft secondary – who will start former Broncos DB Perrish Cox – and work the short passes over the middle with backups at linebacker. With all their players in place, San Francisco is one of a handful of teams who can slow down Denver. With backups in, look for the Broncos to take advantage and put up a big score on Sunday Night Football.

Denver Broncos:

Probable:

Cornerback Omar Bolden (groin)

Safety David Bruton Jr. (shoulder)

Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (knee)

Kicker Brandon McManus (right groin)

Linebacker Corey Nelson (hamstring)

Running back Juwan Thompson (knee)

Out:

Montee Ball (groin)

San Francisco 49ers:

Probable: 

Cornerback Chris Cook (quadriceps)

Cornerback Perrish Cox (quadriceps)

Tight end Vernon Davis (back)

Wide receiver Stevie Johnson (hip)

Defensive end Tony Jerod-Eddie (shoulder)

Defensive tackle Ian Williams (ankle)

Defensive end Justin Smith (not injury related)

Questionable:

Cornerback Tramaine Brock (toe)

Cornerback Chris Culliver (shoulder)

Tackle Anthony Davis (knee, ankle)

Defensive back Jimmie Ward (quadriceps)

Out:

Linebacker Patrick Willis (toe)

Guard Mike Iupati (concussion)

For more Broncos news and updates, visit Broncos Central.

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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. Rich is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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