DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 29: Tight end Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots is tackled by free safety Bradley
ENGLEWOOD—It’s remarkable the type of injuries an NFL player can play through.
Denver Broncos’ free safety Darian Stewart has a strained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. He suffered the grade 2 strain in the third quarter of the Broncos’ 20-18 win Sunday against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
“I’ll be fine for the Super Bowl,’’ Stewart said Thursday. “When you want something bad enough nothing will keep you out.’’
Stewart didn’t practice Thursday and probably won’t until the Broncos move their preparations for Super Bowl 50 to the San Jose/Santa Clara, Calif., area next week.
Some positions can sustain strained MCLs easier than others. Free safety is among the most difficult as Stewart ranges from sideline to sideline and is a strong tackler.
Offensive tackle and safety has been the Broncos’ most battered positions this season. The Broncos lost starting left tackles Ryan Clady in minicamp and Ty Sambrailo after their third game.
Later in the season, the Broncos lost two key backup safeties in David Bruton Jr. and Omar Bolden to season-ending injuries and starters T.J. Ward and Stewart have been in and out of the lineup. Ward, who aggravated his ankle injury Sunday against the Patriots, joined Stewart as the only Broncos players who didn’t practice Thursday. Stewart had been hobbled by a hamstring strain before encountering his knee injury.
“I’m encouraged that they’re going to both be there in a couple weeks,’’ said Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak. “It doesn’t mean I’m right. I think T.J. is probably a little ahead of D-Stew right now, but we’ll probably be smart with them this week and put them back together next week. But I feel good about it.”
Had the Super Bowl been scheduled for this Sunday, it would have been difficult to think Stewart could have played.
“I would have found a way to be out there,” Stewart said. “You can’t be doubting. Never underestimate someone who wants something bad enough.’’
Kubiak is putting his team through regular game-week practices this week (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday). He’ll then back off for a couple days before resuming regular practices again next week. The Broncos will practice in pads (helmets and shoulder pads) probably for the last time Friday.
“We’re trying to approach the game like we’re playing this weekend,’’ Kubiak said. “That’s been our preparation, so today is our Wednesday. Tomorrow will be our physical day. So we’re trying to approach it that way. When we get on the plane Sunday, I want feel like we’re pretty close to being ready to play.”
(© 2016 KUSA)