ENGLEWOOD - It’s settled then. Donald Stephenson will be the Denver Broncos’ starting right tackle until further notice.
Stephenson began the season as the Broncos’ right tackle, but then he struggled against the likes of Oakland’s Khalil Mack and New Orleans’ Cameron Jordan to the point he was replaced in mid-game two weeks ago by Ty Sambrailo.
Last week, Sambrailo was given the chance to keep the right tackle job, but then he didn’t match up well Sunday against Kansas City’s Justin Houston.
Stephenson replaced Sambrailo midway through the second quarter and finished the game. Houston didn’t get a sack in the second half or overtime, so Stephenson earned the right to play right tackle Sunday.
“I’ve been through this before,’’ Stephenson said. “I have no problem having to prove myself. It’s a tough division. Every week is going to be tough. It’s not going to be easy. I don’t take it personal. I’m not going to get down on myself. I just know I have to get back to work and be ready when I eventually get the call.’’
No one feels sorry for any player in the NFL. But the truth is through bad luck with injuries and switching positions ever couple of weeks, it hasn’t been easy for Sambrailo to succeed. He switched from right tackle to left tackle last year as a second-round drafted rookie out of Colorado State.
He then suffered a season-ending torn labrum injury in his left shoulder in week 3. Surgery limited his ability to strengthen his upper body. Within a week after he was fully healed enough to learn a new right guard position during training camp, Sambrailo suffered a hyperextended elbow that also included a dislocation and bone fracture.
Again, that’s not the type of injury where a guy can bench press.
Sambrailo recovered in time to switch positions again, this time to right tackle, where he has not yet been able to compete against the league’s elite pass rushers.
As Stephenson moves back in, he has empathy for the man he’s replacing.
“I just tell him to keep working,’’ Stephenson said. “Ty is going to be a good player. He’s still young. He missed a lot of time, we understand that. I’ve been there before, been where he’s at. It’s tough to play tackle in this league. He’s a tough kid. He wants to get better, he wants to work and he wants to help this team. I have a lot of respect for Ty. I just tell him to keep working just like I did.’’