Two players who joined the Broncos in trades before the season are headed to the injured reserve.
After sustaining an ankle and knee injury, respectively, in Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Dan Gronkowski and Joe Mays are out for the remainder of the season.
Gronkowski, who had eight catches for 65 yards this season, suffered his injury in the second quarter but toughed it out to return to the game.
“He’s just a tough (player),” Head Coach Josh McDaniels said. “He (injured) it and then he went back in and taped it again at halftime. I love his toughness and we have a great deal of respect for what he tried to do yesterday, because he did not want to come out of the game. As a coach, you appreciate that a lot.”
While Gronkowski did not reinjure the ankle, the initial injury was severe enough to end his season.
McDaniels also discussed the loss of Mays, who has stepped in as a starter at middle linebacker in five of the previous six games, accumulating 40 tackles and a pass defensed this season.
“He’s definitely been a very valuable addition to our team — not only on defense, but his impact has been there all year in the kicking game,” the head coach said. “He’s a very unselfish guy who took his role and did the most with it. I think our team has a great deal of respect for his toughness and effort. He plays extremely hard and we’ll miss his impact here the last month of the season. (We’re) very grateful that we have him and that will continue to move forward with him.”
The team hasn’t made any decisions as for the roster moves to replace the injured veterans, but “there are some balls up in the air right now.”
Meanwhile, the team is hopeful that Andre’ Goodman and Darcel McBath will return for this Sunday’s game at Arizona. The status of Brian Dawkins and Demaryius Thomas is still uncertain.
Goodman’s return comes with Perrish Cox fresh off what McDaniels called “probably (his) best game of the season” against the Chiefs. Goodman, who started all 16 games in 2009 and four games this season, might be eased back into the cornerback position where Cox has started eight games in his stead.
“Any time a player is coming back from an injury and hasn’t practiced in a while, I think there is always a period there where you are going to see how quickly they work back in, what they can handle right away,” McDaniels said. “We will see as we go throughout the week and evaluate (Goodman) and see where he is at.”
Despite the Broncos being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, the focus around Dove Valley is still on winning games — “one game at a time, four times.”
With that in mind, McDaniels addressed the idea of giving younger players more playing time simply to give them experience for next season.
“I think that good experience is always better than just experience,” McDaniels said. “I don’t think that just forcing experience on younger players because your record dictates that you can’t make the playoffs is necessarily a great formula to use.”
“I certainly don’t want to use these last four games to put players in there that aren’t ready to go.”
The head coach used Eric Decker as an example of a young player who has gotten better every week, worked hard to create a role for himself and has earned more playing time, hauling in three passes for 76 yards in the past two weeks. Rather than forcing the rookie into the lineup, Decker earned “good experience” on his own.
When asked more specifically about playing Tim Tebow, McDaniels cited Kyle Orton’s season — he ranks fourth in the league in passing yardage — and indicated that the transition from a little playing time to all of it could be even more difficult at the quarterback position.
“I think it’s a big discrepancy when you’re talking about any player that really hasn’t had a lot of reps during the course of the year,” McDaniels said, “then, all of a sudden you’re going to say, ‘Now you’re going to get all of them.’ That’s a tough transition for anybody to take.”
The head coach said the team will make decisions based on what is best for the team as it looks to win games to close the season.
“We’ll consider all things and if those things we think can help our football team be better down the stretch, then we’re going to do them — no matter what position it is, no matter who it is,” McDaniels said. “If we don’t think that, then we’ll make a different decision.”
-Gray Caldwell, DenverBroncos.com