ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Ryan Clady and Jeff Heuerman didn’t even make it to training camp before getting injured during offseason workouts. They’re going to the Super Bowl with the rest of their teammates, though.
The seven players on injured reserve will fly out with the team when the Denver Broncos leave for the Super Bowl on Sunday.
That’s a departure from two years ago when former coach John Fox left behind all his injured players, including stars Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr., when the Broncos flew to New York.
“I think it’s great,” said Clady, who’s missing his second Super Bowl, last time with a foot injury, this time with a knee injury. “I like the fact that everybody’s coming because honestly I thought it was going to be like last time.”
Coach Gary Kubiak said it’s all part of his promise he made to the team from the start.
“We’re all in this together,” Kubiak explained. “There are guys that we’ve lost through the course of the year. … But they’ve been a big part of us. They’ve been with us. One thing I ask guys to do when they’re on IR is stay involved with the team, don’t just remove themselves. Guys have done that.
“It’s important. Everybody is going Sunday. We’re all together. We’re going to do this together. That’s the way we’ve been all year.”
His players praised Kubiak’s decision, especially Miller and Harris, who were awaiting ACL surgeries last time and didn’t fly out until the families and staff members traveled late in Super Bowl week.
They missed out on media day madness, the team photo, all the fun, really.
Miller’s season that year began with a six-game drug suspension and ended in December when he got hurt. He was allowed to stick around team headquarters during his NFL-mandated banishment, so being left behind during Super Bowl week was especially stinging, he said.
“That four days, it ate me up, seeing them on TV and not being around them,” Miller said.
Harris also has bitter memories of that decision, which was met with derision in the locker room.
“I mean, that was so hard to not be in any of that, to enjoy that,” said Harris, who was hurt in the playoffs that year. “So, for those guys to get to enjoy that this time, I’m happy for those guys. To be able to show the true team aspect that everybody’s been needed, I like that approach.”
The Broncos figure the injured players all helped lay the foundation of this Super Bowl run. So they deserve to relish the trip just as much as recent reinforcements Shiloh Keo or Vernon Davis.
“I feel like I had a little bit of a stamp on this season,” Clady said, “just being here for a long time and being a part of getting Peyton Manning here and the success we’ve had since he’s been here. It’s exciting. I’m happy for my teammates. Unfortunately, I can’t play. But I’m happy for guys I’ve been working with for years, and we’ve been grinding.
“Even last year, practicing with some of the guys, working with D-Ware (DeMarcus Ware), I feel like I helped them get a jump on some of the other tackles in this league.”
The decision to exclude the injured players was one of several blunders the old Broncos coaching staff made 24 months ago.
There was the arduous practices leading up to the game with a roster older than Seattle’s and Fox’s decision to turn down the speakers that simulate crowd noise at practice because “it’s not an away game.”
A silent snap count would have been so much better because Seattle’s 12th Man showed up on Denver’s first play from scrimmage and helped ruin whatever great game plan Denver had installed.
Manning lined up in the shotgun and called for the ball from his 14-yard line, but his center couldn’t hear the cadence. When he stepped up to reset the play, the ball sailed past him and into the north end zone for a safety.
Twelve seconds in, the Broncos trailed and never recovered on their way to a humbling 43-8 blowout by the swarming Seahawks, a remarkable rout of the highest-scoring team in NFL history.
The Broncos aren’t taking any chances this time. They’re going with lighter practices next week but they’ll crank up the volume.
“Yeah, we’re practicing with noise,” Kubiak said after practice Saturday. “Peyton mentioned that to me and so we took the approach this week to practice with noise.”
And come Sunday, they’ll leave no teammate behind.
By Arnie Stapleton, AP Pro Football Writer
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