ENGLEWOOD - Chris Kuper put on pads for the first time in 214 days, snapped a few footballs to Peyton Manning and lined up some at guard Tuesday. "I feel like a football player again," he said.
But he's a long way from being able to win a spot on Denver's 53-man roster.
Before he can compete for a backup job, the former captain and anchor of Denver's offensive line has to get healthy.
Kuper's latest comeback try is from a second surgery on his left ankle, which was grotesquely dislocated in the 2011 regular-season finale.
He admittedly rushed back last year and ended up hobbling through the playoff loss to Baltimore with a shattered plate in his repaired ankle that caused him to skip the Pro Bowl, where he was named an alternate despite having played in just seven regular-season games.
This second comeback has proven even tougher.
"The setback with the ankle surgery and the infection put me behind on the eight-ball," Kuper said. "That's how football works, that's how the NFL is. Every year you have to compete for a spot."
Kuper agreed to a restructured contract Tuesday that reduced his 2013 salary from a non-guaranteed $4.5 million with a $1.05 million injury protection settlement to a guaranteed $1.05 million base, plus a chance to make another $1.7 million in incentives.
"I'm glad to be here and have a chance to hang around and compete for a job," Kuper said.
If Kuper makes the team, he'll likely serve as a backup to guards Zane Beadles and Louis Vasquez, although coach John Fox said he'll get a look at center, too.