ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan eased his grueling training camp routine this year in response to the NFL's reduced roster limits.
It hasn't kept his players out of the training room.
In the first seven snaps of Saturday night's 19-16 preseason loss at Houston, the Broncos lost starting linebacker Boss Bailey, their biggest free agent signing, with a sprained right ankle, and his backup, special teams ace Louis Green, with a concussion.
Denver already had four key players sitting out in cornerback Champ Bailey (hamstring), center Tom Nalen (knee), safety Hamza Abdullah (groin) and defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson (knee). Right tackle Erik Pears, who has been slowed by a bad back, played only one series against the Texans.
Afterward, Boss Bailey left Reliant Stadium on crutches and Green wore a neck brace on the team's charter flight home.
Boss Bailey said he suffered a low ankle sprain, which usually doesn't require as much recovery time as a high ankle sprain. X-rays were negative but he was sent for an MRI on Sunday. Shanahan said his new strongside linebacker might miss a couple of weeks.
Jamie Winborn finished the first half at Bailey's position.
The Broncos focused on linebackers when they went about fixing a porous run defense in the offseason. They moved D.J. Williams from the middle to the weakside, his natural position, and signed Boss Bailey and Niko Koutouvides, who is battling Nate Webster for the starting job at middle linebacker.
Despite the rash of injuries, the Broncos were pleased with their first-team offense Saturday. Quarterback Jay Cutler overcame shaky starts by inexperienced tackles Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris, who drew four flags, to complete eight-of-10 passes and run for a 15-yard touchdown.
"We've got a whole new offensive line out there," Cutler said. "Two young guys on the tackle, so I mean we're going to have to grow with them and they're going to have to learn game by game and make mistakes that rookies make."
The Broncos took Sunday off and will resume workouts Monday afternoon, when right guard Montrae Holland is expected to participate in his first practice. He spent the first two weeks of camp working off the more than 25 pounds he gained in the offseason.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press