The curse of Super Bowl XXXIII continued today with the news that Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis will be out for the rest of the season with torn ligaments and cartilage in his right knee.
Davis, who led the NFL in rushing with 2,008 yards last year, was hurt Sunday as he attempted to make a tackle on an interception by the New York Jets' Victor Green. The 21-13 loss dropped the two-time defending Super Bowl champions to 0-4.
The Broncos have plenty of company in their post-'98 misery. The AFC champion Atlanta Falcons, the team Denver beat in Miami last January, also are 0-4 and without the services of their best running back, Jamal Anderson, for the rest of the year. Anderson suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Falcons' second game.
The Broncos said today that Davis will be out from four to six months, but he is expected to make a full recovery after surgery that will be performed in the next 10 days. Coach Mike Shanahan will replace Davis with Derek Loville, who has been effective in a reserve role when Davis got an occasional breather.
"I talked to [Davis] and he's in as good spirits as he could possibly be in," Shanahan said. "He's working through it. . . . Right now, the ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] and the advances they've made in technology, you never know for sure."
The Broncos do know this: An unprecedented Super Bowl three-peat seems out of the question for a team that must go to Oakland to play the revitalized Raiders this week, with games against the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings later this month.
"I believe our guys will step up," Shanahan said. "It's not going to be easy, but I believe in our guys."
Shanahan said he also will re-evaluate the quarterback position after second-year player Brian Griese threw three interceptions against the Jets. Bubby Brister replaced him late in the game, but the veteran threw two more interceptions.
The Broncos could turn to veteran Chris Miller, signed as a free agent in the offseason. Miller has had a history of concussions, suffered from tendinitis in his throwing elbow during the preseason and has not spent much time working with the first offensive unit.
Shanahan stunned fans and many of his players a dozen days before the season opener when he decided to open the regular season with Griese at quarterback instead of Brister. Popular in the locker room, Brister was 5-0 as a starter last year and had been led to believe he would be the replacement for the retired John Elway.
Brister's demotion was a distraction to the team for several weeks, and Shanahan has taken heat from Denver media for a move that clearly has not paid dividends, even if Griese has played well at times.
Without having to worry about Elway, Denver opponents have blitzed Griese unmercifully. They've also stacked eight defenders on the line to stop Davis, who had gained only 211 yards in his first four games.
Davis was hurt when he was hit by one of his own offensive linemen. Tackle Matt Lepsis made a diving tackle from the side on Green, and Davis, who was trailing the play, twisted his knee badly when Lepsis's momentum carried him into the running back.