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Because he didn’t need to be carted off, there was hope his injury wasn’t season-ending and that he might return in the playoffs.

“It wasn’t anything that was a late hit. It wasn’t even a hit,” Elway said. “It was just sometimes you tear those ACLs. It’s unfortunately a fact of where you step and when you get hit at the same time and that was really what happened to Von. It was really just the ACL, so it should make for a quick recovery.”

The best case is that he’s back for training camp after surgery sometime next month. ACL recoveries generally take six to nine months.

The Broncos will once again rely on Nate Irving at strongside linebacker in the base defense and on Shaun Phillips, Robert Ayers and newcomer Jeremy Mincey on passing downs — along with dialing up creative blitzes.

“He’s a special player, no question, one of the best guys I’ve seen on the edge in my career,” Broncos tight end Julius Thomas said. “What he’s able to do on the field, what he can bring, it will be missed, but most importantly we wish him the best, we wish him a fast recovery.

“We’re going to be there for him and we know he’ll be there rooting us on.”