End of the line for Tom Nalen? | AspenTimes.com

End of the line for Tom Nalen?

Jeff Legwold
Rocky Mountain News
Aspen, CO Colorado

** FILE ** In this Sept. 16, 2007 file photo, Denver Broncos center Tom Nalen takes a break in the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Denver. Nalen, the last link to the Broncos' Super Bowl titles of the late 1990s, was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008, ending his season and likely spelling the end of his career in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

ENGLEWOOD ” Like most mornings on most days of his career, center Tom Nalen attended the Broncos’ team meeting Wednesday, but his teammates and coaches know they’re going to see a lot less of him in the coming weeks and months.

“It’s weird,” quarterback Jay Cutler said.

Nalen, in his 15th season and the Broncos’ most-tenured player, was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, officially ending his season. Nalen had struggled with pain in his left knee since arthroscopic surgeries in June and August.

“What can I say? A great player,” said Broncos offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, who coaches the team’s offensive line. “It’s hard to see him go through that. It’s just one of those situations you didn’t want it to happen. I think he absolutely did everything he could to get back. He was the same as always ” tough, hard-nosed.”

Nalen is the last player on the current roster to have played on the Broncos’ Super Bowl championship teams to close the 1997 and 1998 seasons.

Receiver Rod Smith officially retired this summer after missing last season because of hip surgery.

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“Playing with Rod, that’s always been something special,” Cutler said. “Tommy and Rod, they are two class acts. They did it the right way. They’re pros in every sense of the word.”

Many of Nalen’s teammates said it was too soon to know if the five-time Pro Bowl selection would try to return to the field next season.

After missing virtually all of training camp and all four preseason games, Nalen had been out of the lineup for the Broncos’ first three games of the regular season.

He had returned to practice on a limited basis during the past two weeks before being held out Sept. 18 and Friday.

“It’s always hard to lose a great player and a great man,” Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. “If there is anybody that can play with pain, it’s him. When he can’t play, you know it’s serious.”

In recent weeks, some teammates and multiple team officials privately have described the condition of Nalen’s knee as “bone on bone,” which leads to chronic pain because the cartilage in the knee is damaged or has been removed throughout the years.

“He’s got to do what he needs to do right now,” Dennison said.

“Just tough to see him go through that this year.”

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