DENVER - With cornerback Chris Harris Jr. out for a torn ACL and defensive end Derek Wolfe out for seizure-like symptoms, the Denver Broncos have two roster openings. To fill the gaps, the team signed a new cornerback and activated an offensive tackle from the practice squad.
Harris' roster spot will be filled by newly signed cornerback Marquice Cole, a veteran of 64 career games in the NFL. His statistics include 36 tackles, 14 pass breakups and four interceptions.
Interestingly, Cole spent the last two seasons with the New England Patriots -- the team coming to Denver for Sunday's AFC Championship game. He was released by New England on Dec. 26.
To fill the spot vacated by Wolfe, the team activated Offensive Tackle Vinston Painter from the practice squad. A sixth-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Painter previously played as both offensive guard and offensive tackle for Virginia Tech.
-- Injury 'epidemic'
The Broncos (14-3) have endured an injury epidemic, especially on defense, to reach the AFC title game against New England (13-4).
Harris is the fifth defensive starter the Broncos have lost, joining Von Miller, Kevin Vickerson, Rahim Moore and Wolfe. But Harris' injury could prove the hardest to overcome.
"It's terrible news," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "Whoever will fill his shoes, whoever we put in there, has to step up."
-- Next for Harris
Harris tweeted Monday, "Blessed to be able to help the team get this Far , and will still do my part in meeting room to help my guys out."
A torn ACL typically requires six to nine months of recovery and rehab.
"Thanks for the prayers," Harris tweeted. "Gonna work extremely hard and come back a Monster next year . God is on my side. #broncosup"
Harris, who received a $2,000 signing bonus as an undrafted free agent out of Kansas three years ago, is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason and was certain to receive the highest possible tender from the Broncos, which figures to be in the $3 million range.
-- Defensive strategy
Last week, Philip Rivers staged a comeback from a 17-point deficit largely by targeting Harris' rusty replacement, veteran Quentin Jammer.
"I played like (crud)," Jammer admitted. "It wasn't anything physical. It was mental. I was sitting on routes I shouldn't have been sitting on."
If the Broncos don't stick with Jammer, they could move Champ Bailey back outside. Bailey is a 12-time Pro Bowler who's been on slot duty after returning from a nagging foot injury last month.
Another possibility for the Broncos is rookie Kayvon Webster. But Webster is playing with a cast on his right thumb, which he broke in two places a month ago. He returned Sunday, but only played one defensive snap and seven on special teams.
Moving Tony Carter from corner back to defensive back does not appear to be an option -- he was put on the Broncos inactive list Monday. Carter was covering a punt at New England on Nov. 24 when returner Wes Welker didn't call him off in time and the ball hit his leg.
Defensive tackle Sione Fua is also on the inactive list.