ENGLEWOOD—It was the type of injury scare that could have spoiled a season before it began.
Broncos starting defensive end Derek Wolfe – one of the team’s best players – was down for several minutes with a right leg injury.
Wolfe was helped onto a cart, driven off the practice field, and helped into the trainer’s room while putting no weight on his right leg.
As it turned out, Wolfe had an ankle injury that the Broncos initially didn’t believe to be serious, although the team was still conducting more tests.
“Great news,’’ said Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib. “I was praying as soon it happened that it was just a sprain or something like that and nothing serious. Hopefully, it’s not serious and it’s just a sprain.’’
Still, the injury looks pretty ugly, as we got to see on social media when Wolfe tweeted out a picture of his swollen ankle.
Just a little swelling 😎 pic.twitter.com/iCz1TL7FhE— Derek Wolfe (@Derek_Wolfe95) August 12, 2017
The vaunted Denver defense cannot afford to absorb any more serious injury blows.
The Broncos’ defense is already without starting outside linebacker Shane Ray for one or two regular season games with a torn right wrist ligament. His backup Shaq Barrett will miss more time because of a hip injury. Backup defensive lineman Billy Winn is out for the year with a right knee injury and defensive tackle Kyle Peko is also mending a broken foot. Strong safety T.J. Ward has been out with a hamstring injury.
Wolfe’s injury occurred early in the team’s 11-on-11 drill. The Broncos were practicing in full pads Saturday.
Wolfe was a key player on the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 team as he was a force against the run and as an inside pass rusher. Wolfe posted 5.5 sacks each of the past two years.
He is in the second year of a four-year contract that will pay him $6.05 million this year.
Should Wolfe miss the rest of the preseason, the 3-4 defensive ends next in line for the Broncos are Adam Gotsis, Zach Kerr and Shakir Soto. The team could also consider moving second-round rookie DeMarcus Walker back to defensive end, although head coach Vance Joseph said he could him at outside linebacker for now.
Jared Crick is a returning starter at the other defensive end position.