Broncos ax vet Mobley to free roster spot

Updated: July 27, 2004, 10:49 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- The Broncos released linebacker John Mobley on Tuesday because of a lingering neck injury that will keep him from playing this season.

John Mobley

Mobley bruised his spine on Oct. 26 in a collision with teammate Kelly Herndon and Baltimore running back Jamal Lewis. Mobley had hoped to return this season, but a specialist determined last month that the bruise was still there.

Mobley failed his physical before the start of training camp this week and the Broncos elected to release him to clear up a roster spot.

"You have to release him to get down to the maximum number of players you can have on the team," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "It doesn't mean we don't want John Mobley back on our football team. If six months to a year from now he feels like he is ready to go, then we will assess him then."

Mobley was one of Denver's most consistent players after the Broncos drafted him in the first round in 1996. He started 102 of 105 games in eight seasons, played on Denver's two Super Bowl teams and was an All-Pro in 1997, when he had 162 tackles and four sacks.

Mobley was convicted of drunken driving on April 23 and faces between seven days and a year in jail and a fine of $450 to $1,000. Sentencing is scheduled Friday.

Police said he failed a roadside sobriety test in December 2002 after he was stopped for driving 69 mph in a 40 mph zone.

In 1999, he pleaded guilty to driving while impaired, driving without a license and careless driving. He was sentenced to probation and community service.

Mobley started his career as Denver's weakside linebacker, switched to strongside in 2002, then moved back seven weeks into last season after Ian Gold tore his ACL.

"He's a great guy and a heck of a football player," Broncos defensive coordinator Larry Coyer said. "He's constant, he's tough, he's capable of playing any game and to lose a man of that caliber is tough."

Mobley's injury leaves the Broncos with plenty of questions at linebacker.

Al Wilson is back in the middle, but Gold signed with Tampa Bay in the offseason. After that, it will be wide open.

The Broncos still have Donnie Spragan and Jashon Sykes, who were solid in place of Gold and Mobley last season. But those two likely will get pressure for the starting jobs by this year's first-round draft pick, D.J. Williams, and Terry Pierce, who played just three games last season after Denver took him in the second round.

"To be frank about it, you get so used to seeing him and having the same group of linebackers that it's a unique experience," Coyer said. "But both John and Ian set the bar and we're not going to let the bar slide."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press