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Broncos place RT Ryan Harris on IR

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP)

The Denver Broncos have had spotty results without standout right tackle Ryan Harris in the lineup, and now they'll be without him the rest of the season.

The third-year pro was put on injured reserve Wednesday with an injury to his right big toe that will require surgery and rehab lasting well into the winter.

Harris dislocated his toe on Nov. 1 at Baltimore and missed five games, the first four of them losses following Denver's surprising 6-0 start. He aggravated the injury in the first quarter Sunday at Kansas City just 10 snaps into his return, and medical tests this week revealed bone and ligament damage.

Tyler Polumbus will replace him in the starting lineup as he did when Harris first went down.

A third-round draft pick out of Notre Dame in 2007, Harris missed training camp and the first five games of his rookie season after undergoing back surgery. After playing in the final 11 games that year, he won the starting job last season and allowed just 2 1/2 sacks in 16 games.

He was having another stellar season this year before getting hurt - as were the Broncos.

Harris wasn't in the locker room Wednesday and none of his offensive linemates wanted to answer questions about losing him for the season.

Coach Josh McDaniels expressed no regrets about pushing Harris to return to the lineup, saying his latest injury was unrelated to the original one.

``No, he was fine. That had nothing to do with it. The previous injury was not, is not, the same injury,'' McDaniels said. ``That has nothing to do with the new injury. So, you know, yeah, it's the same toe, but it's not the same injury to the toe. So, it's kind of a fluke deal and he was playing well until the time that it happened.''

Polumbus, an undrafted player who grew up in Denver and played at the University of Colorado, has played OK in Harris' absences, although it was his whiff on San Diego linebacker Shaun Phillips that led to a strip and sack of Chris Simms three weeks ago. Simms, who was starting with Kyle Orton out with a sprained ankle, was benched after just five pass attempts that day.

McDaniels said he's seen growth in Polumbus in recent weeks, however.

``I've seen a guy that has gained confidence because obviously in this league when you're playing in the games, that experience is more valuable than the experience that you gain in the offseason and all the rest of it,'' McDaniels said. ``He knows what we're doing. He knows our system. He communicates well with the other players. He's playing beside good players and we think that we have a guy that's getting better each week, and he'll have a big challenge ahead of him this week.''

The Broncos (8-4) travel to Indianapolis (12-0), where defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have combined for 20 sacks. Mathis, who has 9 1/2 sacks, will match up primarily against Polumbus on Sunday.

That only adds to the difficulty of Denver becoming the first team to beat Indianapolis this season. The Colts are shooting for their record-breaking 22nd straight win in the regular season.

Losing Harris for the year put a damper on the Broncos locker room Wednesday.

``Yeah, he's certainly a good player for us and brings toughness and a little nastiness to the line,'' Orton said. ``So, it's disappointing to hear about it. But Tyler will step in. He's played before and he's played well for us and he's going to need to for the rest of the year.''

In the six games Harris finished, the Broncos allowed a total of nine sacks and topped 220 yards passing five times. In the six games he missed or didn't finish, they gave up 14 sacks and passed for 220 or more yards just once.

Despite those numbers, Orton said he hasn't noticed a difference with Polumbus in the lineup lately and he doesn't sense a big change in the play calls or protections, either.

``We've kind of gotten away from doing some empty (backfield) stuff, but I don't think that has to do with Tyler,'' Orton said. ``I just think that has to do with where we're at as an offense, so I don't think we've done a whole lot to specifically help Tyler.''

The Broncos signed free agent tackle Herb Taylor to replace Harris on the roster.

NOTES: The Broncos practiced indoors because of temperatures hovering near zero. ... The only Broncos player to miss the workout was S David Bruton (thigh), while 10 Colts players sat out practice Wednesday and another 10 were listed on their injury report.

Tagged: Broncos, Kyle Orton, Ryan Harris, Tyler Polumbus

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