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Broncos will need many hands to fill safety David Bruton Jr.'s roles

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- On the day the Denver Broncos told safety David Bruton Jr. his season was over, which was one day after the Broncos’ medical staff had told Bruton his right fibula was fractured, Bruton still kept to his appointed rounds.

He just did it with a crutch jammed under each arm. And when the Broncos had a bike giveaway for some children from the Denver Boys and Girls Club, Bruton, a devotee of cycling in the offseason, was right in the middle of the smiling faces, as he was scheduled to be last Tuesday.

"I’m always excited being around bikes again," Bruton said with a laugh. "Seeing the kids pick out the bike and go pedal it. I wouldn’t miss that, too much fun."

And the kids? Well, the kids love the Broncos, they love bikes, and the guy on crutches is a guy who wouldn’t have missed a bike giveaway for the world. But Bruton is a guy the Broncos will miss in whatever becomes of the remainder of their season.

"They were saying things like 'Oh, you’re the one who broke his leg,' things like that," Bruton said. "I said 'yeah, that’s me, sadly that’s me,' but just because I’m hurt doesn’t mean I would miss something like that. Just because I’m not on the field doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be in the community. People do things to help all the time when maybe they have some kind of issue going on. I’m not going to take myself out of things like that, a broken leg shouldn’t hinder me from doing that."

Bruton fractured his leg on the defense’s 15th play in the loss in Pittsburgh a week ago. He played 65 plays -- on defense and special teams combined after he suffered the injury, and was carried to the locker room by Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan and a team trainer.

Initially he said he "thought it was a bruise," but an magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam later showed the fracture. Bruton had also hoped the Broncos could keep him on the 53-man roster with the slim hope he could get back on the field if the team made it deep enough into the postseason.

But with other injuries at safety -- both T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart did not play against the Steelers -- the Broncos could not hold the roster space, so Bruton’s season is done.

"When they told me it was broke, it was definitely upsetting, definitely hurt," Bruton said. "Especially after working so hard and finally getting a chance to play, to contribute to such a great defense and not be able to finish what we started."

Bruton had been the longest-tenured Broncos player -- he was a fourth-round pick in the 2009 draft -- on the team’s roster at the time of his injury. He had also played 482 snaps on defense (50.4 percent of the team’s total) in a variety of roles, and it was his most playing time on defense in his career -- the kind of workload he’s waited and strived to have.

So, Bruton’s combination of size (6-foot-2, 217 pounds), speed and savvy will certainly be missed on defense. But his injury will also carve a large swath of playing time out of special teams. Bruton has been the team’s special teams captain, and his 271 special teams snaps this season were tied for the most on the team with linebacker Corey Nelson.

"Bru, man, you're going to miss him," said cornerback Chris Harris Jr. "He's one of those guys who can do so many things, knows the defense, knows all of the special teams plays and what he did (in Pittsburgh), you're going to miss a guy with all that. The DBs, we'll keep him in involved."

"That’s a big adjustment, obviously he was our captain," said special team coordinator Joe DeCamillis. "He’s been a great leader for us. What he did the other day, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before, playing through what he played through. It’s going to be a big adjustment."

DeCamillis said because Bruton had played so much on defense -- 58 snaps on defense against the Patriots, 58 snaps against the Chargers and the 77 plays against the Steelers -- the Broncos have had to adjust at least some on special teams in recent weeks.

Bruton said he plans to stay engaged as the Broncos continue to battle for playoff positioning. The team needs to win both remaining regular-season games to guarantee a postseason spot.

"I’m going to have everything pushed to my iPad, so I’m going to know what guys are doing, I’m going to know the gameplan ... definitely going to be in tuned," Bruton said. "And if I see anyting I’m definitely going to let them know. I don’t plan to take myself out entirely. But they’re the ones who have to play now, and that’s what is going to be tough for me."