The Denver Broncos have missed Chris Kuper. Specifically, quarterback Peyton Manning has missed his right guard, Chris Kuper. Kuper, who broke his left forearm in training camp, is back in full pads on the practice field with the Broncos on Wednesday and could see some playing time in Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders.
The Broncos could definitely use some good news like this. It's been a difficult week for Denver, as they've seen the team drop to a 1-2 record after Sunday's loss to the Houston Texans. On Monday, the NFL announced large fines to be levied against head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio for their verbal abuse of the replacement officials in the previous week's game against the Atlanta Falcons. On Tuesday, starting middle linebacker Joe Mays was heavily fined and suspended for Sunday's game against the Raiders as punishment for his vicious (and illegal) hit on Texans' quarterback Matt Schaub two days earlier.
Getting Kuper back into the offensive line rotation will make things a bit easier for Peyton Manning. On Sunday, current starting guard Manny Ramirez was repeatedly steamrolled by the Texans' physical defense. Manning was sacked three times and hit numerous other times as Ramirez (most obviously) was simply overwhelmed for most of the game.
Kuper has been out of practice since breaking a left forearm during a training camp practice on August 14. Kuper was the offensive line captain and set to be the starting right guard protecting Manning but instead Ramirez was thrown in just a few weeks before the season started. Kuper was a fifth round selection in 2006 by the Broncos and has started 15 games or more a season since 2007. His injury was a huge blow to an area of the team that was considered to be one of the strongest.
I doubt Kuper will get a great deal of playing time on Sunday, and the Broncos certainly shouldn't try to rush him back too soon. I hope that the following week's game against the New England Patriots is when he will finally start again. Having the offensive line stabilized with Kuper's return could be what's needed to finally get Manning and the rest of the Broncos offense clicking together.
Julie is a featured NFL contributor for the Yahoo Contributor Network. A lifelong football fan, she started following the Broncos upon moving to Denver in 2001.