Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Manny Ramirez working at center with Broncos' first team

by Brooke Pryor sports@gazette.com - Published: July 29, 2013 0

After last season's starting center Dan Koppen suffered a season-ending ACL tear Sunday, five-time Pro Bowl selection and former Broncos center Tom Nalen tweeted, "Just finished mowing the lawn. 3 hours in the sun. waiting on #broncos call."

Neither John Elway nor any other member of the Broncos organization called Nalen to bring the recently elected Ring of Fame member back to Dove Valley in pads.

But the tweet does speak to the question that now lies in place of the man who'll be snapping the ball to Peyton Manning

Coach John Fox was adamant that the starting job belonged to Manny Ramirez, who's held it since spring practices.

"Manny Ramirez has been our starting center and has been all season," Fox said. "Danny Koppen only signed 10 days ago and you never like to see something like that happen."

But Ramirez didn't seem to be aware that he's been Fox's starter all along.

"You all know coach Fox's philosophy: 'Next man up,'" Ramirez said. "And that's the case again. I'm just going to do anything I can to help out the team."

Koppen, who previously snapped for Tom Brady, played in 15 games for the Broncos last season, starting 12

The Broncos re-signed Koppen after J.D. Walton underwent an unexpected offseason ankle surgery to further repair the September injury.

Manning and Koppen immediately clicked and the transition was relatively seamless. But the shift from Koppen to Ramirez might not be as smooth for Manning.

"With Dan Koppen, it took a couple weeks and then he knew what was going on," Nalen said. "But might have had something to do with Tom Brady. It may never happen, that's my worry."

Ramirez has a good relationship with Manning, and said that the two already have good communication.

There's still time for Manning and Ramirez to get adjusted to working with each other - the season opener is more than a month away - but Nalen said by about the third preseason game, it should be obvious whether the two will work well together.

If Ramirez bobbles the starting job, the team has limited candidates to fill the slot. The Broncos signed veteran free agent Steve Vallos, who previously played with Seattle, Cleveland, Jacksonville and Philadelphia.

There's also the possibility of moving guard Chris Kuper to center, but Kuperwas placed on the physically unable to perform list. He is recovering from an ankle injury. And of course, there is still the hope that Walton will return during the season to reclaim his spot.

"We will consider anything that is going to better our team," Fox said. "Right now we are trying to get him healthy ... He definitely an option, same as J.D. Walton."

Nalen isn't panicking just yet.

"There's plenty of time for Manny, and he's just one guy," Nalen said. "It's important because of the relationship he has with Peyton. But it's not time to panic, we still have Peyton Manning as a quarterback and great receivers and premiere left tackles."

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