ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Shane Ray arrived at training camp eager for a big year that would take some focus off superstar Von Miller following the retirement of DeMarcus Ware.
On the first day of training camp, Ray broke his left wrist, which would require three surgeries, including one last Friday to remove the screws.
He missed the first six games of the season, played through pain for two months and now will miss the last two games after the Broncos (5-9) placed their 2015 first-round draft pick on injured reserve Tuesday.
"Originally the plan was after the season," Ray said of his latest operation. "The problem is you're playing with pain with the screws in your wrist and the possibility of the pins breaking. The screws started wearing away a little bit and the bone was loosening up. So, it was time to take them out."
The change in plans allows Ray to kick-start his rehab by a month.
"I'll be able to start recovering and rehabbing faster," Ray said. "I think that's the most important thing is to get me back healthy."
Ray said he preferred to finish out the season "but I've got to take care of myself and get back to being the Shane that I can be. It's hard to do that with three wrist surgeries."
The Broncos were hoping the 10-day layoff between games would allow Ray to recover in time to play at Washington (6-8) this weekend. But Ray said he would have had to wear a permanent cast and play in more pain than usual.
"It hurts. You got stitches in you. You just got screws out of your bones," Ray said. "It's been painful all season just playing. Every game I think I've come out at least once or twice in the game just because of the pain. And now it's still painful, but my wrist, it's not strong right now."
Ray said his pain tolerance is high but "sometimes it's not about tolerating the pain. I've done that all season for my team. Now, it's just I've got to get right."
Unable to hit the weights following his first surgery, Ray lost weight, dropping 17 pounds to 225, and basically played with one hand.
"I'm playing off of pure will and just passion," said Ray, who collected 15 tackles and one sack a year after posting 48 tackles and eight sacks. "I have no problem with that. I don't back down from anybody I play. But you know it comes to a point where, what more can I do? I need to get healthy."
In both mind and body.
"It's physically and mentally just bearing on me to know that damn, I could have made this play if I could have used my other hand," Ray said. "The toughest part is I've never quit. There's never been a point in my football career where I'm not playing. It's been either you pull me out because I can't play or I'm going to play."
The Broncos pulled him out Tuesday. They promoted cornerback Michael Hunter from their practice squad to take his roster spot.
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