*** UPDATED AT 1:56 P.M. MST *** By Andrew Mason DenverBroncos.com
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It's not good. But it could have been much worse.
Monday, the Broncos learned that running back Clinton Portis suffered a high ankle sprain and a sprained knee during overtime of the Broncos' win over the Cleveland Browns. An MRI examination revealed that was the extent of the injury, with no significant ligament damage. Head Coach Mike Shanahan said that Portis was questionable to play on Sunday night at Indianapolis.
The first diagnosis on Sunday night was of a sprained right ankle and knee, with no broken bones. Now that the Sunday word has been confirmed as the extent of the injury only the ankle is of concern, and the Broncos' sense of relief at that development was palpable throughout the locker room.
"Especially for a running back, the knee injury (can be) career-ending," wide receiver Ashley Lelie said. "I'm just glad it didn't affect his knee, just his ankle."
When Portis plowed into the line on the last of his 38 carries, his right leg bent awkwardly as he was tackled. He managed to put some weight on the leg as he was helped from the field, but did not put any weight on it as he went through the tunnel and was helped to the training room following the win.
Two of the men who might be asked to replace Portis if he can't play Sunday know the pain of high ankle sprains far too well. Mike Anderson has endured the injury on multiple occasions, while Reuben Droughns is currently trying to recover from one that he incurred during the Dec. 7 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Anderson's experience tells him that there is no set timetable for the healing process with this injury.
"It just depends," Anderson said. "That's a slow-healing injury. It can go from a couple of weeks to a month. It just depends. It's one of those things that just lingers along. If you have a twisted ankle or something, you know how that feels at the moment you hit it against something or twist it slightly. All that pain comes rushing back."
Droughns managed to heal well enough to be on the active roster Sunday after beginning the week on crutches. But his duty was limited by comparison to the action he saw in previous games this season. With Droughns battling the ankle injury and Anderson getting back into football condition after four weeks out with a league substance-abuse suspension, Patrick Hape was pressed into service at fullback during stretches of the second half against Cleveland.
"He's kind of on the level where I was at last week as far as walking with the crutches and stuff like that," Droughns said. "Hopefully it gets better during the week."
Portis spent the morning and afternoon receiving treatment on the ankle, but he remained in good spirits considering the circumstances.
"He's hanging in there," Lelie said. "He's an athlete, and just by talking to him, he'll be all right."
If called upon to carry the rushing load, Anderson is ready -- not because he has something to prove, but simply because it's his job, and he knows he can succeed, having done so in the past.
"I'm not out to prove anything. I'm not going to get overexcited about that. That's what they brought me here for in the very beginning. They drafted me as a tailback. Over the course of the years since I've been here, I've made the switch from tailback to fullback and I've played some tailback the last couple of years," Anderson said. "It's something I've always been doing.
"It's not about me," Anderson continued. "It's about this team and what we're doing as a team and what kind of push we're trying to make for the playoffs. It's about going out there and giving these guys everything I've got if my number gets called."
If it does on a frequent basis, the Broncos are confident he'll be able to keep the offense moving and the rushing attack percolating, just as it has in recent weeks that have seen Denver ascend to the top of the league's rushing-offense table.
"You've seen what Mike has done in the past," Lelie said, referring to Anderson's 2000 season, in which he set a franchise rookie rushing record that was later broken by Portis. "We have all the confidence in Mike. He's an athlete. He'll be there for us."
I hear you, I'm picking up Anderson, Griffin, and believe it or not T.Jones(Tampa) is still available on the FA wire. I figure purge your backups to align your starters. If I lose this next game it doesn't matter in a non-keeper league.
Very glad to hear that Portis is more or less OK, even if he doesn't play this coming week (I'm in the "superbowl" now but I'm much happier taking a chance with Thomas Jones or Mike Anderson than seeing someone like Portis go down for good).
Anyone here who's considering replacements still, I'd say Thomas Jones is the best choice if available, he's facing Atlanta at home this week. Anderson is a good start, but even though Indy's rush defense isn't that good, their offense is and on top of that Denver is coming to Indy's house. There's no one else I'd consider starting, unless Rudi Johnson or Bennett are available. Unless I hear that Portis is hopping around pain-free I'm going to stick with Jones this week.