ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Left guard Max Garcia showed up at the Denver Broncos’ headquarters Friday with a sore left knee, something that initially seemed like a minor annoyance for a team preparing for two big offensive line changes already.
With right guard Connor McGovern preparing for his first NFL start at center and Elijah Wilkinson set to make his first pro start at right guard, Garcia went for an MRI.
The result was devastating: a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Garcia is the third starting offensive lineman the Broncos have lost this season, joining guard Ronald Leary (Achilles) and center Matt Paradis, who had surgery on his broken right leg earlier this week.
“It’s been a tough year for us O-linemen,” left tackle Garett Bolles said. “It’s a shame to see three guys that are really close to me go down, but at the same time I know that we have guys behind them that have stepped up to the plate and are going to smack a home run.”
Garcia’s injury further staggered a team that’s trying to salvage a season featuring four one-score losses, including to the league’s two 9-1 teams the Rams and Chiefs, by a combined seven points.
“It was really weird, I watched (Thursday’s) practice from the last play back to the first play and he didn’t miss a down,” coach Vance Joseph said. “So, the play he was injured on, I saw it, it was kind of a slip. It was no big deal. He finished up practice.”
Joseph said Billy Turner, who started four games at right tackle when Jared Veldheer was out with a knee injury, will start at left guard Sunday when the Broncos (3-6) visit the Los Angeles Chargers (7-2).
This will mark the Broncos’ sixth different lineup on the O-line this season, but Joseph said it won’t affect the game plan.
“I thought leaving camp that we had the best line that we’ve had around here in a while as far as depth and as far as guys who can play” multiple positions, Joseph said. “It happens. It’s football. We’ve got Billy Turner playing the left guard with Eli playing the right guard along with Mac playing the center, so I’m comfortable. Let’s go play.”
He said recently signed seven-year veteran center Gino Gradkowski will be active Sunday along with rookie swing guard Sam Jones.
“Ain’t too many guys left,” he said.
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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