ENGLEWOOD, COLORADO – Although the schedule gets easier for the Denver Broncos this month, the degree of difficulty in reaching the playoffs keeps going up.
The Broncos (6-6) lost leading wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to a ruptured left Achilles tendon on Wednesday. He was hurt in a non-contact drill at the beginning of practice.
The 31-year-old receiver was placed on injured reserve and on Wednesday night he tweeted , “If you know me then you know nothing can keep me down. I’ve overcome too much in life to let this stop me. I’ll be back next year w/ a bigger chip on my shoulder . . . I PROMISE!”
The Broncos quickly claimed wide receiver Andre Holmes off waivers from Buffalo, giving them a seventh-year veteran to go with their four remaining receivers, all of whom made their NFL debuts this season.
Sanders, who led the team with 71 catches for 868 yards and four touchdowns in a bounce-back year, was injured on a routine route. He sensed the gravity of the injury as he crumbled to the ground, tearing off his helmet and rolling it away as teammates and trainers rushed toward him.
“It didn’t look good,” coach Vance Joseph said, adding Sanders “was sore last week in his heel area and he felt great today.”
Sanders’ injury was the latest blow to a team that’s lost seven starters from its opening-day lineup, including six on offense.
“It hurt, especially with an Achilles injury, that’s a major injury,” rookie receiver DaeSean Hamilton said. “He was our leader and he was a coach, too, so it was hard to watch.”
Sanders’ injury came three days after the Broncos lost star cornerback Chris Harris Jr. to a broken right lower leg, an injury that could sideline him for the rest of the regular season.
Sanders crumbled to the grass in an area of the field that has several brown patches and has led to several slips over the last few weeks, notably by rookie receiver Courtland Sutton.
Normally, the Broncos flip their two main practice fields from a north-south configuration to east-west at midseason, but they didn’t do that this year. Nor did they rotate individual drills, leaving bare patches in several areas.
Asked if he thought field conditions played any role in Sanders’ injury, Joseph said, “I don’t, no. The fields are fine.”
Sanders’ injury amplifies odds the Broncos face in their quest to reach the playoffs for the first time in the post-Peyton Manning era.