ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. is out for the rest of the playoffs after an MRI on Monday revealed a torn ACL in his left knee, a person with knowledge of the results told The Associated Press.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because coach John Fox hadn’t addressed the media yet.
Harris was injured in the third quarter of Denver’s 24-17 win over San Diego in the AFC Divisional round Sunday.
After he went out, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers staged a comeback from a 17-point deficit largely by targeting Harris’ rusty replacement, veteran Quentin Jammer. It fell short, however, when Peyton Manning was able to keep Rivers on the sideline over the final 3 minutes, 51 seconds by converting a trio of third downs.
The Broncos (14-3) have endured an injury epidemic, especially on defense, to reach the AFC title game against New England (13-4), but Harris’ injury could prove the hardest to overcome.
They could move Champ Bailey, a 12-time Pro Bowler who’s been relegated to slot duty after returning from a nagging foot injury last month, back outside or they could insert rookie Kayvon Webster in Harris’ spot opposite shut-down cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Webster is playing with a cast on his right thumb, which he broke in two places a month ago, requiring surgery to insert six screws and five pins.
Another option is Tony Carter, who was covering a punt at New England on Nov. 24 when returner Wes Welker didn’t call him off in time and the ball hit his leg, the Patriots recovered and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 31-yard field goal that gave them a 34-31 win over Denver in overtime.
Harris is the fifth defensive starter the Broncos have lost, joining star linebacker Von Miller (knee), run-stuffer Kevin Vickerson (hip), safety Rahim Moore (leg) and end Derek Wolfe (seizure-like symptoms).
Harris was hurt on the opposite side of the field when Rivers completed a 19-yard pass to Keenan Allen along the San Diego sideline with 8:17 remaining in the third quarter.
He was taken inside for evaluation and when he wasn’t in the locker room after the game, his teammates were concerned his injury was serious.
“I don’t really know what happened. I’m praying that everything is fine,” Terrance Knighton said after the game. “We’ve faced so much adversity all year with injuries, and if Chris is there, then I’m happy for it, but if he’s not, then like we’ve been saying all year, the next guy has got to step up and play.”
Harris helped hold Rivers to 20 yards passing in the first half but after he went out, Rivers threw two TD passes to Allen and it took Manning’s 21-yard completion to tight end Julius Thomas on third-and-17 from his own 20 to help the Broncos salt away the win.
“Philip got hot there in the second half. I did not want to give him the ball back there at the end,” Manning said. “There was some real want-to on our offense’s part to stay on the field on that last series.”
Harris, who received a $2,000 signing bonus as an undrafted free agent out of Kansas three years ago, is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason and was certain to receive the highest possible tender from the Broncos, which figures to be in the $3 million range.
A torn ACL typically requires six to nine months of recovery and rehab.
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