Broncos guard Chris Kuper has opted out of the Pro Bowl, and will soon undergo surgery to repair a reaggravation of the injury that ended his 2011 season.
Kuper endured a gruesome leg injury in the 2011 regular season finale which included a dislocated ankle, several torn ligaments, and multiple breaks in his fibula.
A broken forearm suffered during training camp last summer caused the seventh-year guard to miss the season's first five games, and he reinjured his leg injury Week 9 at Cincinnati.
Initial X-rays revealed no further damage, but the injury ended up keeping Kuper out of Denver's Week 14 game at Oakland, and it was at that point discovered that Kuper's leg was again in poor shape.
It's rather difficult to tell from the wording in Mike Klis's article whether the problem is with Kuper's fibula, or the plate that had been used to stabilize it a year ago. Either the bone or the plate has been "shattered," and the rest of the blogosphere is translating Klis's words to mean it's the fibula. Granted, this makes sense, given that the plate's material should not be capable of being shattered, but we'd prefer to point out the poor wording than make a statement of fact based upon it.
Verbiage aside, the severity of Kuper's injury, plus the abject crappiness of his play against Baltimore, calls into sharp question the Broncos staff's decisions to start him in that game, and to stick with him throughout his obvious struggles.
His minus-7.4 grade from PFF is by far the worst given him during the site's five seasons of existence, and nobody - not Champ Bailey, not Rahim Moore - came even close to grading out as poorly in the loss. Kuper struggled in all facets, allowing two hits and one hurry against Peyton Manning, and getting whistled for three drive-killing holding penalties, although one of them was a highly questionable call (during Jacob Hester's would-be 3rd-and-1 conversion).
Granted, we were not shy about hoping/suggesting that getting Kuper back to start over Manny Ramirez would improve the Broncos' chances of making a run to New Orleans. But that, of course, was without the knowledge that Kuper's injury had become severe enough to require further surgery.
And while the Denver line had allowed 19 sacks with Ramirez in the lineup, and just two with Kuper starting, Ramirez had improved down the stretch. According to PFF, Manny played his two best games as a Bronco to close out the regular season, earning plus-4.0 grades in two blowout wins, over Cleveland and Kansas City.
Prior to those games, he'd earned a respectable but unspectacular plus-1.2 grade at Baltimore.
We have to assume that Kuper practiced well during the week leading up to the loss versus Baltimore, and that's why he started.
Yet, given the facts as we now know them, and considering how much Kuper struggled throughout the game, we're beyond puzzled that John Fox and Company didn't pull the veteran for the healthier Ramirez, either prior to, or during the game.
We'd already seen Kuper's poor play, and naturally, Fox's decisions as factors in the loss, but the former now looks as if it owes to the latter.