Coming off a rock-solid rookie campaign, Spencer Larsen was set on making a big splash in his second season at the pro ranks.
Against the Falcons last season, Larsen became the first Bronco in team history to start on both offense (fullback) and defense (linebacker) in the same game. Against coverage units, Larsen became a standout special teams player, finishing tied for third on the club with nine tackles. He was fast becoming known as one of the Broncos’ most versatile players.
This offseason, Larsen was determined to continue his role as a multidimensional player. Thus, he dug deep into his collection of playbooks during his spare time, while rotating between offensive, defensive and special teams meetings during OTAs, mini-camps and training camp.
Finally confident in the different concepts thrown at him, Larsen was set on applying what he learned during the offseason in the team’s regular season opener at Cincinnati. Those plans, however, were quickly derailed by a freak pregame accident. As the game was nearing kickoff, Larsen slipped and fell in the locker room, landing on his shoulder and costing him several weeks of action.
“I watched the game in the locker room by myself with ice on my shoulder for three hours,” Larsen remembers. “It was a wonderful win, but it was very hard seeing everybody come in at halftime and not being able to be a part of it.”
Larsen, who returned to practice field on Monday, said his frustration level with the injury stemmed not just from the injury itself, but how the injury occurred. He called it a “challenging time.”
“It wasn’t something like I went and had a big hit or something like that – a cool story I could tell everybody,” Larsen said. “It was something very very weird that happened. A lot of coaches told me it was one of the worst things they’ve ever seen.”
As disappointed as he has been to miss the first six games of the season, Larsen remained focused on the task at hand — doing everything necessary to return to the field. To maintain his performance level, he worked tirelessly to stay in shape on a daily basis with Strength and Conditioning Coach Rich Tuten.
Just as importantly, Larsen has stayed mentally prepared by keeping the same routine he maintains while he plays.
“I have been doing everything I’d be doing if I was going to play,” Larsen said. “I’ve watched all the film, I’ve been in every meeting, I’ve been in every walk through.”
Larsen said he will not know if he’ll be on the field this Sunday until he sees how his shoulder responds — starting Monday — to a week’s worth of practice.
But Head Coach Josh McDaniels appears to be eager to use Larsen’s unique services in the near future. McDaniels said he expected Larsen to contribute to all four phases of the kicking game at the onset of the season, and still hopes he’ll excel at that role during the stretch run.
McDaniels also believes Larsen can be a valuable contributor at linebacker and fullback.
“A player like that, that can add that versatility to your team, I think, is the kind of guy that you want to wait on (when injured),” McDaniels said.
“If you are waiting on a guy that can only do one thing, maybe the decision would be more difficult,” he continued. “It wasn’t an injury that we felt like would keep him out past the bye week. Hopefully, that will be the case this week as he returns to the field and we can see his progress. Hopefully, he will be able to make an impact on our team going down the stretch here.”
PRO BOWL VOTING
Just a quick reminder that voting for the 2010 Pro Bowl has kicked off on NFL.com. To vote for your favorite Broncos, click here.
Here are some more pictures from today’s practice.
– Zach Eisendrath, DenverBroncos.com