ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP/CBS4) – Denver Broncos fans greeted Gary Kubiak by singing “Happy Birthday” at the start of Monday’s practice. The rest of the morning wasn’t as cheerful for the Denver Broncos head coach.
Kubiak’s 55th birthday included a serious injury to one of his starting defensive linemen and a scuffle between two of his stars.
Defensive end Vance Walker hurt his right leg during practice and is expected to be out for the season, according to the team. Walker was carted off after getting tangled with guard Max Garcia on the second play of 9-on-7 drills. Walker could not put any weight on the leg and it was later revealed he has a torn ACL.
““We think the world of Vance and he was having a great camp,” Kubiak said in a statement released Monday evening. “We’ll support him through his recovery, and he’ll come back stronger than ever.”
Jared Crick stepped into Walker’s spot with the starters.
“It’s horrible what happened to Vance and hope he’s going to be all right,” Crick said.
Walker was listed as one of the starting defensive ends on the team’s depth chart. He was expected to step into the starting role after Malik Jackson signed with Jacksonville in the offseason.
Walker played in 15 regular-season games and all three playoff games for the Broncos last year. He had 33 tackles during the season and five more in the playoffs.
“I just hope he’s all right and we can get him back,” nose tackle Sylvester Williams said. “It’s going to be a big loss for us. I know he’s a tough guy and he’ll fight through whatever it is.”
Rookie Adam Gostis, Lars Koht and Billy Winn could get some long looks at defensive end if Walker is out for an extended period.
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and cornerback Chris Harris Jr. got into a small fight on the sidelines. Sanders appeared to beat Harris on a go route before Harris drew a pass interference flag trying to contain the receiver. The play spilled onto the sidelines, and both helmets were ripped off during the scuffle. No punches were thrown.
Sanders and Harris didn’t take any more reps during the drill, but Kubiak said neither was thrown out of practice.
“They’re just tired of going at each other but we’ve got to keep our composure,” Kubiak said. “Guys are going to get upset battling each other but there’s things they won’t let you do on the field so we can’t do those in practice, either.”
Later, Sanders went across the field and shook hands with Harris and cornerback Aqib Talib.
Sanders and Harris declined to talk to reporters.
Sanders had a good day before the fight. He got behind Talib on a sideline route and caught a touchdown pass from Trevor Siemian. A few plays later Siemian connected with Jordan Norwood on a similar play against free safety Antonio Glover.
Siemian had a strong day in his battle with Mark Sanchez for the starting quarterback role. That is the biggest question Kubiak needs to answer, but there could be some clarity when the Broncos start joint practices with San Francisco on Wednesday that finish with a preseason game on Saturday night.
“This week is a big week for this team,” Kubiak said. “You’re getting to the point where you’ve got to start to answer those things.”
Notes: S Ryan Murphy and CB Taurean Nixon were at practice but not participating. … The Wounded Warriors project was at practice Monday. Broncos players and coaches greeted the group and took pictures before heading into the locker room.
– By MICHAEL KELLY, AP Sports Writer
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