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Broncos 'Playing It By Ear' on Projected Starting RT Billy Turner's Knee Injury

The ailment dates back to last season.

The Denver Broncos' offensive coaches envisioned a three-man competition for the starting right tackle job. What they're getting, as of now, is a no-contest.

Absent from the start of Organized Team Activities on Monday were veteran tackles Billy Turner and Calvin Anderson, both of whom continue to mend injuries. This was by design as OTAs are voluntary practices and, thus, Denver doesn't need to rush either player's rehabilitation progress.

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Turner warrants a raised eyebrow considering the 30-year-old is widely expected to win the aforementioned competition yet can't seem to shake a bothersome knee issue that dates back to last season when he missed four regular-season games for the Packers and was limited during the playoffs.

Green Bay released Turner with a failed physical designation on March 14. Two weeks later, Denver signed the versatile blocker to a one-year, $2.5 million contract, likely at the behest of former Packers assistant-turned-Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett.

“Billy is the best, man. I mean, he’s such a great dude," Hackett said in March. "I think that with him—looking back at it, his experience through the flexibility and how he played—he would jump from one position to the other was something that would always blow me away. It was something I would talk to him about just how he approached it and how he works every day as a pro to be able to do something like that and play right tackle, left tackle, right guard. I mean, it’s really unbelievable. Just as a man as he is off the field is just awesome. I love him. I’m so excited to have him on our team.”

Ten weeks later, Turner remains unable to get on the field, unable to protect new quarterback Russell Wilson, unable to vanquish his challengers. So it's mothballs until further notice.

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“We’re playing it by ear," Hackett said Monday of Turner's status. "It’s one of those things that is day-by-day, and we just want to make sure we’re doing all the right stuff for him.”

With Turner and Anderson sidelined, the Broncos are rotating free-agent pickups Tom Compton and Ben Braden and undrafted rookie Sebastian Gutierrez at right tackle. Braden is a natural guard who's never made an NFL start while Gutierrez is a converted wide receiver from small-school Minot State.

Which would be a bigger deal if the calendar read September rather than May.

"I think for us, we want to make sure that we have as much flexibility as possible and then get the best five out there," Hackett said. "For those guys, what happened in Green Bay the past couple years that just blew my mind [was] how those guys were able to move and play different positions. That’s what we need to create here. Once we figure out who that best five is, we go. There’s competition all over the place.”


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