- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 23, 2014

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) - As far as Peyton Manning is concerned, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders isn’t the only offensive reinforcement summoned to help Denver get another crack at winning the Super Bowl.

“It’s almost like Ryan Clady was a free agent acquisition,” Manning suggested. “He didn’t play last year.”

Well, hardly.

The star left tackle suffered a season-ending left foot injury in the second week of the season, not long after signing a five-year, $52.5 million contract.

Clady had missed offseason workouts last year while rehabbing a shoulder injury and waiting for a new contract.

Physically and fiscally sound, Clady embarked on what he expected to be a big season. But in Week 2, Giants defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins inadvertently rolled into his legs from behind on a running play and Clady’s season was over.

Surgery was scheduled for a Lisfranc injury, which usually involves a separation of ligaments and joints in the foot, followed by an arduous rehab.

Clady, who had started all 85 games of his career to that point, found it hard to miss out on the Broncos‘ record-setting regular season but not nearly as difficult as watching the Super Bowl from the sideline as Seattle’s pass-rushers overwhelmed Denver’s offensive line.

“Yeah, it was definitely tough watching and not being able to control anything that was going on out there, so probably one of the hardest games I’ve ever watched,” Clady said Wednesday.

Clady was one of several Broncos sidelined that night, including defensive stalwarts Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr., Derek Wolfe, Kevin Vickerson and Rahim Moore.

Their respective returns should also give the Broncos a boost this season, along with the free agency acquisitions of Sanders, DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib.

“You know, barring injury we should have an awesome team and we should be able to make it back to the Super Bowl,” Clady suggested.

History suggests that’s going to be difficult: The last team to lose a Super Bowl and get back the following season was the 1993 Buffalo Bills. The last team to lose the big game and return to win it was the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

Although he has no timeline for getting back on the field, Clady said he’s eager to return to form and make up for all that time he missed last year.

He’s returned from a serious injury before. He blew out his left knee in a pickup basketball game in April 2010 and still started every game that season. That, he said, gives him confidence he’ll be able to put this latest injury behind him, too: “Yeah, no doubt. I feel like I can recover and get back to a high level.”

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