Broncos a hurting bunch, and it’s still early | AspenTimes.com

Broncos a hurting bunch, and it’s still early

Arnie Stapleton
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

A trainer attends to Ryan Torain, who was hurt during the Denver Broncos football training camp in Englewood, Colo., on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008. Torain broke a bone in his left elbow when he was flipped while rushing during drills. (AP Photo/Rocky Mountain News, Chris Schneider) ** DENVER OUT MAGS OUT ONLINES OUT MANDATORY CREDIT **

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. ” Mike Shanahan reacted to the NFL-mandated reduced roster limit this year by basically ending the grueling two-a-day practices that used to define training camp.

The Denver Broncos now have one big workout in the morning and what Shanahan calls a “jog-through” in the afternoon, minus the shoulder pads and heavy hitting, much like special teams practices that dot the schedule.

Shanahan made the changes to minimize the chance for injuries, yet the injury bug has nevertheless bitten the Broncos.

Within the first seven snaps Saturday night at Houston, the Broncos lost starting strongside linebacker Boss Bailey, the team’s biggest free agent signing, to a severely sprained right ankle and his backup, special teams ace Louis Green, to a concussion.

Cornerback Champ Bailey, who’s taking on a more prominent leadership role with John Lynch quitting a week into training camp, was already on the sideline with a hamstring injury. And center Tom Nalen, the only link to the team’s Super Bowls of the 1990s after the retirement last month of Rod Smith, didn’t even make the trip. He’s missed most of camp while still recuperating from offseason surgery to his left knee.

Safety Hamza Abdullah (groin) also missed the game, as did defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson, another one of the Broncos’ key offseason additions. He’s been practicing sporadically because of chronic knee trouble, slowing his readjustment to a 4-3 scheme after playing in the New York Jets’ 3-4.

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Right tackle Erik Pears, who has been slowed by a bad back, played only one series in the Broncos’ 19-16 loss to the Texans in their preseason opener.

Afterward, Boss Bailey left Reliant Stadium on crutches and Green was wearing a neck brace when he flew home on the team’s chartered flight.

Boss Bailey said he suffered a low ankle sprain, which usually doesn’t require as much recovery time as a high ankle sprain. X-rays were negative but he was sent for an MRI on Sunday. Shanahan said his new linebacker might miss a couple of weeks.

Jamie Winborn finished the first half as the team’s strongside linebacker.

The linebacking corps were a major point of emphasis this offseason when the Broncos went about fixing a porous run defense. They moved D.J. Williams from the middle to the weak side, his natural position and signed free agents Boss Bailey and Niko Koutouvides, who is in a heated battle with Nate Webster to start at middle linebacker.

Despite the spate of injuries, the Broncos were pleased with their first-team offense Saturday, when Jay Cutler overcame shaky starts by inexperienced tackles Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris, who drew four flags, to complete 8-of-10 passes and run for a 15-yard touchdown.

“We’ve got a whole new offensive line out there,” Cutler said. “Two young guys on the tackle, so I mean we’re going to have to grow with them and they’re going to have to learn game by game and make mistakes that rookies make.”

The Broncos took Sunday off and will resume workouts Monday afternoon, when right guard Montrae Holland is expected to participate in his first practice. He spent the first two weeks of camp working off more than 25 pounds that he had gained in the offseason.

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