The linebacker suffered a torn ligament in his wrist on Thursday and will be out six to eight weeks, coach Vance Joseph announced on Friday. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Ray had a successful surgery on Saturday. He likely will play with a cast early on to stabalize it, Rapoport added.
Ray started eight games in 2016 in place of Ware, recording eight sacks and 48 tackles in 16 games played, but 2017 will be his first opportunity to step into the role as a legitimate starter. He's earned offseason endorsements from teammates Von Miller, who said Ray has "been ready for a long time," and T.J. Ward.
"I think Shane Ray's gonna blow up," Ward said in a piece written by NFL.com columnist Michael Silver. "He's gonna wake people up for sure."
Miller's later point back in April -- "Shane being a starter from Day 1, I think that will definitely help his game" -- causes some consternation, though. Assuming the role of starter, especially one following a future Hall of Famer, will become a bit more difficult with the injury setting him back more than a month. Considering the nature of front-seven play -- pass rushing is very much a hand game -- and the fact it's a wrist injury, it's reasonable to think his returning at full strength at the start might be more difficult than usual.
At best, Ray hits the six-week mark two days before Denver's opener against the Chargers on Monday Night Football. At worst, he's back the day before their Week 3 contest versus Buffalo. Either way, he's thrown into the fire with little preseason preparation.
Then again, Ray is a former first-round pick, and has the privilege of playing opposite Miller, who will frequently draw double-teams and chips. The attention will be away from Ray in passing situations. Young, first-time starters have tried to cut their teeth in worse situations in the past.
At least his sense of humor remains intact.