CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- A rash of injuries continues to spread across the Broncos' defensive line, creating concern about the depth with the season-opener less than a month away.
Starting defensive end Jared Crick exited Monday's practice by cart with back spasms, according to coach Vance Joseph. He is listed as day-to-day, with Joseph saying any discussion of bringing in a player would depent on Crick's anticipated absence.
Crick fell to the ground during a team drill early in the workout, leaving teammates taking a knee and multiple expletives filling the air. The frustration is understandable. The Broncos have experienced mind-boggling misfortune at one position.
Beginning in the first half Thursday at Chicago, Billy Winn suffered a season-ending knee injury. Saturday, starter and team leader Derek Wolfe rolled his right ankle, sidelining him for multiple weeks. The goal is for him to be ready for the season opener on Sept. 11 against the Los Angeles Chargers. Wolfe escaped significant damage. Still, his ankle features bruises in shades of yellow and purple and remains swollen.
Crick starts opposite of Wolfe. Like Wolfe, Crick added roughly 20 pounds of muscle this offseason to help stop the run. He was enjoying a strong camp before falling to the turf, sending the camp into near silence.
Crick, signed as a situational pass rusher, was forced into an expanded role last season following Vance Walker's serious knee injury. Crick finished with 53 tackles and three sacks. Crick stayed down on the field for several minutes, and needed help from trainers to go into the locker room. Adam Gotsis, who has made significant progress in his second season, sits behind Crick on the depth chart followed by Shakir Soto. Gotsis enjoyed terrific OTAs, but is still working in back slowly after undergoing knee surgery in June. Zach Kerr and Shelby Harris are getting extra reps at the opposite defensive end with Wolfe sidelined.
It has been a troubling training camp of injuries. The Broncos defense is missing outside linebackers Shane Ray (wrist) and Shaquil Barrett (hip), safety T.J. Ward, reserve nose tackle Kyle Peko (foot) and Wolfe.
Offensively, running back Devontae Booker (wrist), projected to return in Week 3 of the regular season along with Ray and Barrett, and receiver Carlos Henderson (thumb surgery) are out.
Ward needs time
T.J. Ward's hamstring injury requires time to heal. There was early hope he might practice this week. That won't happen. According to a source, Ward will not travel to Santa Clara for the scrimmages against the 49ers, staying back to receive treatment. Will Parks has started in his place.
Advice to the QB
That Paxton Lynch will start this week screams what the Broncos think of him. This opportunity would not exist if they believed he had no chance to win the job. He has trailed over the last week. But the practices against the 49ers and the second preseason game provide an opportunity to make up ground. He needs to play well. And play loose.
"I want him to be consistent and go out there and have fun," Joseph said of Lynch, who flashed potential Monday, but threw an interception to cornerback Aqib Talib.
Added receiver Demaryous Thomas, "I want him to relax, leave bad plays behind and keep his head up."
Dontrell Nelson is in the concussion protocol after suffering injury during Broncos scrimmage. He could be cleared Tuesday, according to Joseph. ... Carlos Henderson underwent successful thumb surgery. The Broncos are considering their options with the receiver, including placing him on injured reserve.