Broncs hope McGahee OK for playoffs

Posted: November 20, 2012

THE LOCKERS of the running backs who might take Willis McGahee's spot in the Broncos lineup are conveniently lined up, four in a row. Lance Ball. Knowshon Moreno. Jeremiah Johnson. Ronnie Hillman.

Barring an unlikely free-agent signing, some combination of those four will be asked to fill in for the foreseeable future for Denver's leading rusher, McGahee, who tore a ligament in his right knee and will be out for what's expected to be a 6-to-8-week stint.

Coach John Fox said McGahee's injury, suffered in the second quarter of Denver's 30-23 victory over San Diego on Sunday, will not require surgery and that the Broncos had no immediate plans to put the 10th-year veteran on injured reserve. Asked about reports that McGahee had also fractured his leg, Fox said, "I don't want to get into too much of the exacts, other than he will not be on IR."

By not putting him on injured reserve, the Broncos, at 7-3 and with a three-game lead in the AFC West, could be thinking about a playoff-time return for their leading rusher, who has 731 yards this year and was having one of his best games of the season - 55 yards on seven carries - before the injury Sunday.

In the meantime, they must find a fill-in for McGahee, who was more reliable than explosive and spearheaded a 19th-ranked running game that's averaging 105.3 per contest. Unlike last season, when Tim Tebow was at the helm, the running game is more complimentary than integral to an offense now run by Peyton Manning.

Noteworthy * 

New England tight end Rob Gronkowski is expected to be sidelined for 4 to 6 weeks after having surgery for a broken left forearm, a source told the Associated Press. Gronkowski appeared to be hurt while blocking on an extra point late in the Patriots' 59-24 win over Indianapolis on Sunday.

* Pittsburgh quarterback Byron Leftwich injured his ribs in Sunday's loss to Baltimore and will not start next week against Cleveland. The Steelers (6-4) will likely turn to 37-year-old backup Charlie Batch, who is 5-2 while as a substitute starter over the last decade. The Steelers are already without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is out indefinitely with shoulder and rib injuries.

* Jacksonville named Chad Henne its starting quarterback for Sunday's game against Tennessee, the latest change for a 1-9 team desperate to snap a seven-game losing streak. Henne threw for 354 yards and four touchdowns in a 43-37 overtime loss at Houston. Blaine Gabbert hurt his right forearm early in the game and had trouble gripping the ball. Henne replaced him in the first quarter.

* Baltimore safety Ed Reed was suspended for one game by the NFL for repeated hits to the head and neck area of defenseless players. The 11-year veteran will miss Sunday's game against San Diego. Reed was suspended for three violations of the player safety rules in the past three seasons. The latest came in Sunday's victory over Pittsburgh when he was penalized for unnecessary roughness for a hit to the head of receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

* Washington safety Brandon Meriweather's season is done after one game with a torn ACL in his right knee - and right after his left knee had finally healed. Meriweather went down without contact, his knee buckling as he was pursuing a running play early in the third quarter of Sunday's 31-6 victory over the Eagles. He had one interception, broke up two passes and had seven tackles despite playing a little more than half of the game.

* Detroit is benching receiver Titus Young for Thursday's game against Houston following what coach Jim Schwartz calls "unacceptable" behavior during Sunday's loss to Green Bay. Schwartz does not characterize the move as a suspension, but says Young was sent home from the team's practice facility Monday and will be inactive against the Texans. The coach does not say what Young specifically did wrong, but says there's no room for selfish behavior in a team sport.

* Atlanta backup center Joe Hawley was suspended four games for violating NFL rules against performance-enhancing substances. His agent released a statement saying Hawley took Adderall in September without filing the proper paperwork with the league for a medical exemption.

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