CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Outside linebacker Shane Ray cuts an imposing figure. He regained 30 pounds, leaving him fit and built to rebound. Yet the strength comes with a caveat. He cannot produce a breakthrough season without a strong left wrist. So it created pause and concern Monday as Ray watched Monday's OTA practice with a protective brace on his wrist.
Ray tore ligaments in the wrist during training camp, undermining his season, and leading, in part, to the Broncos electing not to pick up his fifth-year option. It's June, but Ray's absence remains noteworthy, and an issue until he returns to the field.
Is his wrist OK?
"I am not sure," Ray told Denver7.
Typically in these cases, a medical exam follows, leaving uncertainty until the results are known.
Coach Vance Joseph explained that the Broncos will take a cautious approach with Ray. He is viewed as a critical component to producing waves of pass rushers. And given what happened last year -- an argument can be made that Ray should have missed the season with the injury given the lost strength because he could not lift -- a conservative plan is wise.
"Shane’s got a little wrist going on right now, so we’re not sure. We’re taking it slow, just being smart with guys. It’s the spring. Our real goal is to get him healthy for training camp, but right now we’re being smart with Shane," Joseph said.
The Broncos boast depth at the position with Von Miller, Shaquil Barrett, and first-round pick Bradley Chubb. Ray's health issues, projected salary and the arrival of Chubb led to Denver declining to exercise his fifth-year option for the 2019 season. However, Ray, if his wrist cooperates, is projected to help this year. He said he understood the Broncos decision on his option, recognizing the "NFL is a business."
While Ray's absence is worrisome, the calendar works in his favor. Training camp does not start until the last week of July. But the last thing Ray wants at this point is another speed bump in his recovery after last year's lost season.
Monday featured the same group recovering from or easing back from injury and not practicing. Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (shoulder), tight end Troy Fumagalli (hernia), right tackle Jared Veldheer (foot) and guard Ron Leary (knee). For now, Leary does not have surgery scheduled on his knee, electing to rest to ease the inflammation.