Broncos: Ware needs back surgery, both QBs will play Sunday
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — DeMarcus Ware needs season-ending back surgery and will miss the Denver Broncos’ season finale in which his teammates will play for pride instead of playoff positioning.
Just a year after winning Super Bowl 50, the Broncos (8-7) close out a hugely disappointing season Sunday against the Oakland Raiders (12-3), who reached the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
“It’ll definitely be weird,” said cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who reached the playoffs in each of his first five NFL seasons. “It’s different playing a game for nothing, really.”
That hasn’t happened in Denver since 2010, when John Elway was still in the car business, Tim Tebow hadn’t traded the pigskins for leather and Von Miller was back at Texas A&M only dreaming of fame and fortune.
Players got two days off after they were eliminated from the playoff chase at Kansas City. When he reported to work Wednesday, they learned Ware needs back surgery that probably means he’s played his last game for the Broncos and could spell the end of his NFL career.
Ware turns 35 next summer and is coming off his worst statistical season with just 15 tackles in 10 games.
Ware took a big pay cut to return to the Broncos after winning his first Super Bowl ring, but the 12-year veteran who recorded a dozen quarterback hits in Denver’s playoff run a year ago missed almost all of the offseason with a bad back. Then, Ware broke his right forearm Sept. 18 and missed five games , the same number he missed last year before a stellar playoff run.
Ware, who wasn’t in the locker room Wednesday, finished with a career-low four sacks in 2016, giving him 138½ for his career, sixth best all-time.
“There are some things that he’s been playing through that are bothering him a little bit more than normal right now,” coach Gary Kubiak said before Ware’s impending back surgery was announced on the team’s website.
The Broncos placed Ware on injured reserve along with cornerback Kayvon Webster (concussion). They elevated nose tackle Kyle Peko and cornerback Taurean Nixon from the practice squad.
Kubiak also announced he will play both of his young QBs Sunday.
Trevor Siemian is coming off his worst game — 17 for 43 for 183 yards — at Kansas City, but raw rookie Paxton Lynch will only play in relief against the Raiders.
“I think Trevor deserves the right to go back out there as a starter. He’s done a lot of good things this year. He’s a young player that needs to keep going. I want him to get the Kansas City taste out of his mouth. It was a tough outing,” Kubiak said. “Paxton is also going to play. I’m preparing both and you’ll see them both in the game.”
The Raiders have their own issues at quarterback, where backup Matt McGloin is starting for Derek Carr , who broke his right leg last weekend.
Oakland needs a win to secure a first-round bye and maybe even earn home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Lose and they could drop all the way to fifth and hit the road as a wild-card team.
Neither of Denver’s QBs seemed surprised by Kubiak’s decision to split snaps.
“I would like to play today, truthfully,” Siemian said. “We’ll see Sunday. Hopefully we walk away with a win and get to the offseason in the right direction.”
Lynch demurred when asked if he felt he should get the start.
“Trevor has done a good job with the offense all year. He’s played well and we lost a couple of close games down the stretch,” Lynch said. “I’m happy to play however I can play and every rep is valuable to me.”
The splitting of snaps harkens to an offseason in which both Siemian and Lynch will compete for the starting job in 2017.
That’s barring, of course, an unexpected quarterback acquisition by Elway, who gets an early start to his offseason makeover for the first time in his tenure as general manager.
“They’re both part of the future,” Kubiak said of Siemian and Lynch. “I think Trevor deserves the right with what he’s done this year to go back out there this week as our starter. At the same time, we want Paxton to leave for the offseason with a few more snaps under his belt.”
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