Broncos holding Portis out of finale

Updated: December 26, 2003, 10:30 AM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Three starters, including running back Clinton Portis, won't play this week as the playoff-bound Denver Broncos wind up their regular season in Green Bay.

Portis, who has a sprained right ankle, will be joined on the sidelines by offensive guard Dan Neil and cornerback Kelly Herndon. Neil has a sprained ankle and Herndon has two broken bones in his left hand.

All three players were listed as doubtful on the Broncos' injury report Wednesday, but coach Mike Shanahan was hopeful they could all play in the playoff game the following week.

Portis, the No. 2 rusher in the AFC with 1,591 yards, missed last week's 31-17 win at Indianapolis. In his absence, Quentin Griffin and Mike Anderson ran for 136 and 56 yards, respectively.

By holding Portis and Neil out for another week, Shanahan said there was a better chance they could be close to 100 percent for the playoff game.

"I think both guys would be capable of playing, but there would be that question mark of how long they could last," Shanahan said. With another week off "they should be in good shape for the following week."

Herndon was in a similar situation.

"The doctors said even if it was a playoff game this week, it would be tough for him to play," Shanahan said. "But they feel very good about him playing next week."

Player-coach Jimmy Spencer will start for Herndon against the Packers.

The Broncos lost another starter against the Colts when free safety Nick Ferguson broke his wrist. Ferguson underwent surgery Monday and was placed on the injured reserve list Wednesday.

Denver (10-5) currently has the sixth playoff seed in the AFC, and Shanahan insisted he wasn't concerned about possibly gaining the fifth seed.

"All I know is we're in the playoffs and we're playing on the road," he said. "It really doesn't matter who we play."

Denver likely will open the wild-card weekend at Indianapolis or Tennessee, but possibly Baltimore or Cincinnati. Shanahan said he might rest some of his healthy starters on Sunday, but said he couldn't afford to give anyone the day off.

"You have 45 guys who dress out," he said. "You do not have very many backups. So it's a tough scenario. You go out there to win. You'd always like to protect maybe a couple of guys later in the game.

"But if you don't go in with the mindset that you're going to win a game and compete, you lose players. Players who go in trying to protect themselves, thinking they're getting ready for the next game -- I've just seen it too many times."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press