ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — There’s a loophole in the NFL rules that require players on injured reserve to miss eight weeks and Shane Ray is slipping right through it.
Ray returns to the Denver Broncos’ starting lineup Monday night at Kansas City after missing just six games with a broken left wrist that required surgery in late July.
He only had to miss a half dozen games because the Broncos’ bye counted as one week and Week 8 technically ends Sunday night. So, the Broncos and Ray lucked out with the way the schedule falls.
“I try to find any point of gleaming light I could find out of the situation and it worked out well with me not missing as many games as we thought and also me being able to come back for the Chiefs game,” said Ray, who grew up in Kansas City.
The Broncos (3-3) have lost two in a row heading into their game at Kansas City (5-2) and are struggling on offense and defense . They’ve scored just three TDs in their last four games and are coming off their first shutout since 1992.
They’ve collected just four interceptions and have yet to force a fumble, much less recover one.
“I think I could bring a spark to this team defensively and try to create some turnovers, create some fumbles, some sacks,” Ray said. “And I think that just helps our defense all around. I really just want to get back out there with my big brother Von (Miller) and Shaq (Barrett) and everybody and get back to doing what we do.”
Coach Vance Joseph said Wednesday that Ray “looked great last week in practice. Obviously, he’s not in great football shape but Shane’s going to play Monday. He’s going to start. Shane provides opposite of Von a great rusher. So, obviously they can’t tee off on Von.”
Miller can’t wait for Ray to make his debut Monday night.
“It’s like seeing your brother get back,” said Miller, who’s managed seven sacks despite being double- and triple-teamed in Ray’s absence.
Joseph said Ray will be on a snap count and “Shaq’s played solid for us, so he deserves to play anyway.”
Ray got hurt on the first day of training camp when his wrist bent awkwardly as he tangled with an offensive lineman. He figured it was just a sprain and finished practice.
“I just looked at my hand and I had a ball, like a knot, in my hand. So, I’m looking at it and … it just kind of bubbles up,” Ray recounted. “It turns out that was the tendon in my hand.”
Even when he heard a popping noise in his wrist at practice the next day, Ray didn’t think it was anything serious.
“I called the trainers over and said, ‘Hey, cut all this tape off, re-tape my wrist and put a brace on.’ And they did that and I went out and I finished practice,” Ray said. “I still was getting sacks.”
After practice, he went for an MRI, which revealed a torn ligament that would sideline him at least six weeks.
“Next day I’m in surgery,” Ray said.
When he came to, he had two screws in his left wrist and was facing double the recovery time.
“When they cut my wrist open, my wrist fell right out of the socket,” Ray said. “I tore the main ligament in my wrist. I separated the bones that hold the wrist into place. So, that’s why they have screws holding the bones in my wrist into the socket, because my wrist wasn’t together.”
The screws won’t be removed until the offseason, so he’ll have to play with a cast all year.
“It’s going to be fine. It’s not like I have a club where I don’t have access to my fingers and my thumb,” Ray said. “I got full movement in my fingers. My cast will be under my knuckles and to the thumb. So, as far as I’m concerned, if I can grab, I can play football. And it’s time to go.”
Unable to do any upper body work in the weight room, he said his weight dipped eight pounds to 234, so he figures he’ll have to be more of a speed rusher than a power guy for a while.
“Speed, body control, core work and legs have just been my medley,” Ray said. “So, my lower body and core are way stronger than they were before I got injured, which I think is more important because I can still win with a lot of speed, I can still win with quickness. I don’t have to use power as much if I’m faster.”
Notes: QB Trevor Siemian’s nose was still bruised and purplish three days after Melvin Ingram’s hard hit. “I probably should have broken it,” Siemian said, “I deserve it the way I played.”
By ARNIE STAPLETON
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