Newly-signed offensive lineman Ryan Lilja was still going through paperwork Thursday before hitting the practice field with the Denver Broncos, but head coach John Fox is pleased with the experience the long-time Indianapolis Colt brings to the offensive line.
"I think there is no substitute for experience. We're pleased to have him in the building," said Fox. "We're going to continue to look at people that we think can help us, whether it's depth or competing for starting jobs or competing for a spot on the team."
Lilja played with Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning for six seasons in Indianapolis, primarily at guard, but he'll also compete for playing time at center in Denver. The Broncos don't know when J.D. Walton will return from an ankle injury and lost Dan Koppen to a season-ending knee injury.
Versatile Manny Ramirez, who has mostly played guard during his career, had been competing with Koppen for the starting job before Koppen's injury. The Broncos also signed veteran Steve Vallos earlier this week. Lilja, 32, provides the team more flexibility.
"He's got center/guard flex," said Fox. "He's done it in the league and he's done it at a high level. I don't like defining a guy before he's had his first practice."
seventh season together.
Lilja played center last season with the Kansas City Chiefs, sliding over from his customary guard spot to replace injured center Rodney Hudson.
A starter in nine postseason games, including two Super Bowls with the Colts, Lilja has never allowed more than three sacks in a season.
Lilja was a starter at guard with the Colts alongside Jeff Saturday, the Pro Bowl center whose name was bandied by media as a candidate to rescue the Broncos and act as the offensive line's rudder when Koppen was hurt. But Saturday quickly ended such speculation, saying he'd lost more than 50 pounds since his career ended with the Packers last season.