Broncos rookie Larsen starts at FB, LB, on special teams vs. Falcons

ATLANTA -- Spencer Larsen made history in his first NFL start.

Larsen, a rookie, became the first Denver player to start on offense and defense in the same game when he opened Sunday's matchup against Atlanta as the team's middle linebacker and fullback. He also opened the game on special teams, too.

Larsen's role as a two-way starter on offense and defense was a secret this week.

Denver coach Mike Shanahan told reporters after the 24-20 win over the Falcons he closed practice about 30 minutes early each day this week because "I can't trust you guys in Denver."

Larsen said he was told Monday he would play linebacker this week, but he said even he was surprised to also start on offense.

"I didn't think I would play much fullback," Larsen said.

He said he had to remain quiet about his practice time at linebacker.

"They needed me on defense," Larsen said. "We were real quiet about it. I was real excited about it, but I was able to keep my cool. It was fun and challenging. At fullback, you really know what to do, but at linebacker, it's a different world."

Larsen was third on the team with seven tackles. He didn't have a carry or a catch at fullback.

He also played on Denver's kickoff coverage and kickoff return teams.

Larsen said "it's great" to make Broncos history.

"I think it is cool," he said. "It's a great experience and I credit the coaches for allowing me to do it. I think it's just the type of coaching staff that we have. [Shanahan] is always looking out for his players and he knew that would be fun for me. It's great for him to allow me to do that."

Larsen is the first NFL player to start on offense and defense since Dec. 14, 2003, when Baltimore's Orlando Brown started at offensive tackle and defensive tackle at Oakland.

A sixth-round draft pick from Arizona, Larsen worked at linebacker and fullback in training camp before becoming a full-time fullback behind starter Peyton Hillis.

"I didn't think I'd ever play linebacker," Larsen said. "I thought I'd be able to contribute a little bit at fullback."

Injuries at linebacker and running back forced Shanahan to devise the plan for Larsen's two-way duty.

Hillis moved from fullback to start at running back as Selvin Young was held out with a groin injury. That created the opening for Larsen at fullback.

Denver quarterback Jay Cutler said "it was fun" to watch Larsen and Hillis move into new roles.

"They're football players," Cutler said. "I think he and Spencer are kind of in the same mold. They can do anything out there, special teams, offense or defense."

Larsen was needed on defense as starting linebackers Nate Webster and D.J. Williams were held out with knee injuries. Boss Bailey, the team's other starter, went on IR two weeks ago with a knee injury.