Broncos bring in Christian Ponder to add depth at QB
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Forget Brady vs. Manning XVII, which won’t happen this weekend and maybe ever.
The Denver Broncos (8-2) and New England Patriots (10-0) are focused on protecting their quarterbacks from dominant defenses in their Sunday night showdown so they don’t join so many other NFL signal-callers on the sideline, including Peyton Manning.
In Massachusetts, Brady is busy preparing for the league’s best defense but did lament Manning’s left foot injury that will keep him sidelined at least until mid-December.
“There’s nobody that has more respect for Peyton than me outside of probably his parents and his brothers,” Brady said. ”... It’s unfortunate. Everyone deals with injuries at different times, so it just happens to be this week. They won last week with the guy that they had in there.”
That guy, Brock Osweiler, earned AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors Wednesday
“I didn’t believe it at first. I really didn’t. I thought everybody was joking with me,” Osweiler said.
He was honored for leading the Broncos to a win his first NFL start, which came in his 63rd NFL game, and he did it by throwing for 250 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions — Denver’s first turnover-free game of the season.
Manning, meanwhile, was walking around with a cast on his left foot but a smile on his face after consulting with noted foot and ankle specialist Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, North Carolina, earlier this week.
Manning watched practice, where newly signed Christian Ponder served as the third quarterback behind Osweiler and backup Trevor Siemian after a successful tryout in the morning.
“It’s been an interesting year. A lot of quarterbacks have gone down and a lot of backups have had to step up,” Ponder said. “It was just an opportunity. A door opened for me and I’m glad it did.”
Coach Gary Kubiak said he and GM John Elway were concerned about their depth at QB “because we’re sitting here with a guy who has one start in this league and a kid who doesn’t have a play. ... Good that Christian was out there. He has a little bit of a background in some of our verbiage playing for Billy Musgrave” in Minnesota and Oakland.
Ponder, the 12th overall pick by Minnesota in 2011, never lived up to expectations in Minnesota, throwing 38 TD passes and 36 interceptions while completing 59.8 percent of his passes. Ponder signed with Oakland in March but didn’t survive final cuts.
He had an admittedly awful tryout with Dallas after Tony Romo’s clavicle injury and a good workout in Tennessee but wasn’t offered a job there.
“I grew up a Broncos fan, a John Elway fan. I was No. 7 Little League baseball through college and four years in Minnesota because of that,” Ponder said. “I’m excited to be here.”
He couldn’t wear No. 7 in Denver like he did at Florida State or with the Vikings, so he donned No. 2 instead.
“I think no one’s going to be wearing that number for a long time around here,” said Ponder, whose locker was smack dab in between 319-pound nose tackle Darius Kilgo and 290-pound defensive end Antonio Smith, not even within earshot of the other QBs.
Manning will be in the cast a week to 10 days and then will need another week of rehab at least.
Kubiak said he’s holding out hope that Manning will be able to return to the field this season.
“Absolutely. He’s doing everything he can to come back. We keep going week-to-week with that, but yes, he’s doing everything he possibly can to get back,” Kubiak said.
Osweiler said he hasn’t spoken with Manning about his injury or the timeline for his return.
That doesn’t mean they haven’t talked about other things, though.
“Peyton has been great to me,” Osweiler said. “He was in meetings today. He’s talking me through all of his past experiences going against the Patriots and whatnot. He was out here at practice once again helping me out, asking me questions. Peyton has been a great teammate. Obviously, I love having him around. It’s a great brain to pick.”
Notes: The Broncos placed DE Kenny Anunike (foot) on IR. ... OLB DeMarcus Ware was on the practice field working with trainers and strength coaches. He’s missed two games with a bad lower back. ... WR Emmanuel Sanders (ankle) had a good practice, Kubiak said.
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton