Broncos Cowboys Football

Broncos safety Caden Sterns, left, celebrates intercepting a pass during an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday in Arlington, Texas. Denver won 30-16. Story, C1

ENGLEWOOD — The Broncos could be without one of their most-veteran players Sunday against the Chargers. 

Safety Kareem Jackson is battling a neck and shoulder injury and has not practiced all week. The 33-year-old is the oldest player on the Broncos and in his 12th season in the NFL, while his backup, rookie Caden Sterns, has only played 123 defensive snaps this season. Only a handful of those have come at safety, as he's typically the starting dime.

Still, Sterns has been impressive in his short time with the Broncos and head coach Vic Fangio is confident he will step up if called upon Sunday. 

"We like Caden," Fangio said. "Caden's done well for us and we think he'll go in and play good if he has to. He had to come in and spell Kareem a few plays last week. I think Caden will do fine. No worries there." 

Sterns has been impactful while on the field, totaling 15 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions — he only needs one more interception this season to become the first Bronco with at least three in his rookie season since Steve Atwater did it in 1989. 

And if Sterns is thrown into the fire Sunday, he'll have plenty of help, playing alongside Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons. 

"Both those guys have helped our other safeties — Caden and P.J. (Locke) — and so it should be as good of a situation you can have with guys stepping in," defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said. "We've heard Justin talk about how comfortable he is with Caden. There's a trust factor there." 

Simmons has been one of Sterns' biggest fans since he was drafted in the fifth round out of Texas in the 2021 NFL Draft. The six-year vet is a believer in the rookie. 

"I know with Caden, man, he's more than capable if he ends up being the starter or whatever," Simmons said. "I know he's more than capable and plugging in. It's been great getting to work with him from OTAs all the way up until now and he's been in the mix in some of our different packages and he's played a good bit. I don't think it's going to be too much for him at all. I think he'll do well if he has the opportunity Sunday." 

Other than Jackson, the Broncos are relatively healthy. 

Left tackle Garett Bolles is still on the reserve/COVID-19 list, while right tackle Bobby Massie is a "50-50" shot to play on Sunday. The Broncos also could get a boost on defense with the return of outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, who has been on the injured reserve list with an ankle injury since Week 2. 

"He did fine (Wednesday)," Fangio said of Chubb. "Hopefully he'll pick it up today and feel good again and make some more strides. But he'll truly be 50-50 whether he'll play or not."

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