David Bruton Jr. prepared to fill in for T.J. Ward, and more if needed

David Bruton Jr. enters his seventh season with the Broncos as the likely starter at strong safety while T.J. Ward serves a suspension. Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY Sports

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – When David Bruton Jr. looks around the Denver Broncos' locker room these days, it’s easy for him to do the math.

With tackle Ryan Clady on injured reserve for the season, Bruton is now the longest-tenured homegrown player on the team’s 53-player roster. Bruton was one of the Broncos’ fourth-round draft picks in 2009 and the team’s only remaining player from that draft.

Only Clady, the Broncos’ first-round pick in 2008, has been with the team longer.

“It's not hard to believe at all, I've found a way to stay here a long time," Bruton said. “It's just a tribute to my hard work and dedication to the Broncos organization. In good faith, they've been able to always find a place for me on the roster. That's definitely been a true blessing."

And as the Broncos are set to open the regular season Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, the Broncos will not have Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward available because of Ward’s one-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. So the Broncos’ place for Bruton against the Ravens will be in Ward’s strong safety spot.

Bruton has played at both safety spots in his career and is frequently used in the team’s specialty packages because of his size helps in the run game and his speed helps in coverage.

“I think that we're going to end up playing a lot of people, but yes," Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said following Monday’s practice when asked if it would be Bruton in Ward’s spot. “I think that you're going to see us defensively and offensively have a lot of guys on the field. I think that's very important early in the NFL season. Not many people have been past 30 plays in (the preseason), but, yes, he's ready to go."

“I'm expecting to go out there and take full advantage of my opportunity," Bruton said. “It's unfortunate what happened with T.J. but the way this business is, it's next man up. For the next week, I'm the next man up."

Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has lauded Bruton’s versatility and said the team will use him all over the field, including at linebacker in some of the Broncos’ passing down looks. Over the course of his career Bruton has been the team’s special teams captain and played in 91 regular-season games with five starts.

Should Bruton open the game as expected against the Ravens, however, it will be his first start since he started against the New England Patriots in the Broncos’ Divisional round loss to close out the 2011 season.

“As a veteran, as a professional who's been in this game a long time, I'm always prepared, no matter what time it is," Bruton said. “It could be somebody being tired in the fourth quarter or a two-minute drill or somebody being injured and having to miss a week or two or whatever. I've been in this game long enough to understand that it's important to always be ready because you never know when your number's going to be called."

Bruton also expects Phillips to use a variety of personnel groupings against the Ravens and beyond.

“I believe that Wade's going to put the guys out there who have made plays throughout OTAs, throughout training camp and throughout the preseason, and if you make plays throughout the season, you're going to see your reps go up," Bruton said. “He's going to put the best 11 guys out there on the field no matter what the situation is."