Injuries take toll on Broncos

Less than a quarter into the first preseason game, injuries had already taken a toll on the Denver Broncos.

In the first week of training camp, center Tom Nalen's knee started to bother him, and before the preseason even started, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan wondered whether Nalen might miss the entire preseason.

In the second week, the Broncos' running game took a major hit when rookie running back Ryan Torain broke a bone near his elbow. A test showed ligament damage, putting the promising runner on the shelf for three months.

Then in the first quarter of the preseason opener at Houston, strong-side linebacker Boss Bailey severely sprained his ankle and backup Louis Green left on a stretcher a few plays later with a concussion and neck injury.

The Broncos were hammered with injuries in 2007, and the pattern could be repeating itself. Shanahan had said early in camp that he thought his team could make the playoffs, but injuries would be a factor.

"You've got to be a little bit lucky, a little bit fortunate if you can keep healthy," Shanahan said. "In our two Super Bowl years, we lost 10 starters (games to injury) one year and 15 starters the next year. Last year, we lost 7."

Nalen's injury is worrisome. After only a few days of camp, he was sidelined with irritation just under his knee, which he had arthroscopic surgery on in June. Nalen's problem was in the bursa sac, which caused discomfort. The Broncos signed veteran center Casey Wiegmann as insurance this offseason, and the Broncos might need him. Shanahan said Nalen might miss the entire preseason and be ready for the regular season, but first the pain needs to subside.

"Tom's hurting right now -- he might be ready, he might not but I have to be ready no matter what happens," Wiegmann said.

Torain's injury leaves the Broncos short at tailback. He was the power option in the running game, and Shanahan was so impressed with his camp he compared him to a young Terrell Davis. Veteran Michael Pittman hadn't made a huge splash and spent most of his camp at fullback, leaving Selvin Young and Andre Hall as the main tailbacks. Both Young and Hall are not huge backs, and neither is an ideal option near the goal line.

Then in the preseason opener, the Broncos lost two linebackers on Houston's first series. Bailey was walking in crutches and could miss a few weeks. It's possible Bailey could miss the rest of the preseason.

"He had a pretty bad ankle sprain," Shanahan said.

Bailey signed a free agent contract this offseason and is new to the system. He could be set back by missing practice for most of the month leading up to the regular season.

Green was his backup and a key special-teams player the past few years. He collided with linebacker D.J. Williams and was down for several minutes. Green was brought to the hospital for tests, but was released. He could also miss some time in the preseason.

CAMP CALENDAR: Training camp ends on Tuesday. Denver will then hold practices with the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday and Thursday.



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