ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Peyton Manning will have a new left tackle protecting his blindside after the Denver Broncos placed Ryan Clady on season-ending injured reserve Wednesday.
Clady hurt his left foot Sunday when New York Giants defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins rolled up on him while the Broncos were trying to run out the clock in their 41-23 win. Clady will soon undergo surgery for what's being called a Lisfranc tear, which involves a separation of ligaments and joints in the foot.
Chris Clark, a fifth-year journeyman, will take the place of Clady – the undisputed leader on the line – and make his first career start at left tackle Monday night when the Broncos (2-0) host the Oakland Raiders (1-1).
"Stepping up into a role like this, it's not going to be hard for me to adjust," said Clark, who received a two-year contract extension on Monday. "It's not about filling a guy's shoes for me. It's about me creating my legacy, just helping the team the best way I can and doing my job."
Still, those are some big cleats for Clark to fill.
After all, Clady has been a mainstay at left tackle, never missing a start since being selected in the first round in 2008 out of Boise State. He allowed just one sack last season, the fewest in the NFL. By keeping Manning so safe and secure, Clady made his third Pro Bowl team and was voted an All-Pro first-teamer for the second time in his career.
The Broncos also rewarded his protection of Manning by signing him to a five-year deal in July worth up to $57.5 million. Clady was slowed during training camp as he recovered from offseason shoulder surgery.
Over the years, Clark has been paying close attention to Clady's stellar technique, preparing just in case a day like this ever arrived.
"Just the way he moves, the way he sets, the way he moves his feet and hands, attention to detail. You try to mimic those things because he's been a great player and those things will help me a lot," Clark said of his understudy role. "It helps me being here, practice, games, whatever – it helps a lot."
This isn't the first time the Broncos have had to reshuffle the offensive line in front of Manning. Earlier this summer, the team lost center Dan Koppen for the year to an ACL injury. The offense hasn't missed a beat with Manny Ramirez snapping the ball to Manning, averaging 45 points a game.
"You want your quarterback to feel comfortable when he's back there, knowing that the person that's responsible for that is going to make the right calls and the right adjustments when the time comes," said Ramirez, who also signed a two-year extension last week. "I think I've filled that role so far and I'm just going to continue to improve it."
To fill Clady's spot, the Broncos brought in veteran tackle Winston Justice, who played last season in Indianapolis after spending six years in Philadelphia. The 6-foot-6, 317-pound Justice has started 43 games in his career, including one at left tackle.
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