ENGLEWOOD, COLO. — The Broncos lost another safety, and this time it's the longest-tenured and maybe the toughest player on their roster.
It turns out David Bruton Jr. played most of Denver's game at Pittsburgh with a fractured right fibula that will sideline him four to six weeks, something not even he realized until Monday morning.
Bruton was injured when he collided with cornerback Aqib Talib with 1:58 left in the first quarter on an incomplete pass to Martavis Bryant.
Thinking it was only a bad bruise, Bruton stayed in the game and wound up playing a team-high 77 snaps on defense and another 18 on special teams. All but 20 of those 95 plays came after he'd gotten hurt.
Bruton also was playing on a balky left knee and was so hobbled by game's end that he needed linebacker Danny Trevathan and a trainer to help him to the locker room.
Coach Gary Kubiak called it "an amazing gut-check," and said "nobody knew until after the game," the extent of Bruton's injury.
Actually, no one realized until Monday that Bruton had broken his fibula, the outer and smaller of the two bones between the knee and ankle.
An X-ray in Pittsburgh, where Denver lost 34-27, didn't reveal any breaks and Bruton said he was still under the impression he'd be back by next Monday night's showdown with Cincinnati (11-3) until an MRI and another X-ray in Denver showed otherwise.
"That's amazing," wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. "A lot of guys come out of the game because they have bruises and this guy played with a (broken) fibula. That just shows how much he loves the game of football and how passionate he is about it."
The Broncos (10-4) already were playing without safeties T.J. Ward (ankle), Darian Stewart (hamstring) and Omar Bolden (hamstring). Bruton said he would have stayed in the game even if all those safeties weren't sidelined.
"It just never loosened up. It actually got worse and worse and worse. And then the last two drives of the game I'm literally limping around covering people," Bruton said.
Two plays after getting hurt, Bruton bore the brunt of center Cody Wallace's flagrant foul hit to the helmet.
"Oh, it was a little rough," Bruton said.
He said he hopes Wallace gets fined for the hit or suspended like Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was for his over-the-top hits on Carolina cornerback Josh Norman.
"Everybody's making a big deal of Odell's deal but nothing on him, and I'm pretty sure my head was down, the play was over, whistle was blown," Bruton said. "... That's just what they do. They're dirty and he left his feet trying to take me out. So, I just know if we have to play them again, it's not going to go well. We're definitely going to make sure that he's going to feel it."
Bruton left the game to get checked for a concussion, one of only three defensive snaps he missed all game.
Asked what playing on a broken leg said about his toughness, Bruton cracked, "I don't think it should be questioned ever again."
Kubiak said he had no medical update on Brock Osweiler's left shoulder, which he injured on a 7-yard scramble in the second quarter Sunday. Kubiak said Osweiler was "sore today ... and all indications are that he'll be OK."
Kubiak reiterated that "nothing has changed" with his QB situation, meaning Osweiler remains the starter while Peyton Manning will try to return to practice Wednesday.
Manning has missed five weeks with a torn left plantar fascia. He returned to practice last week, but skipped Friday's workout because his foot was sore.
Kubiak will meet with both QBs and "have a plan in place when we get to Wednesday."
Manning and the Broncos were furious with an NFL Network report Sunday that suggested Manning didn't want to be Osweiler's backup if he's healthy.
Manning labeled the latest report "insulting." GM John Elway tweeted that Manning has never told him or Kubiak that he doesn't want to be the backup and "any report or rumor that suggests otherwise is incorrect!!"
After the game, Kubiak was asked if Manning had made any declarations about being the backup and he replied: "That's sad to hear. I'm going to tell you what: Hell no, no way, OK? He's working his tail off to get back on the field, that's what he's doing."