The lockers of the running backs who might take Willis McGahee’s spot in the Broncos lineup are conveniently lined up, four in a row.
Lance Ball. Knowshon Moreno. Jeremiah Johnson. Ronnie Hillman.
Barring an unlikely free agent signing, some combination of those four will be asked to fill in for the foreseeable future for Denver’s leading rusher, McGahee, who tore a ligament in his right knee and will be out for what’s expected to be 6-8 weeks.
‘‘We’ve all got to step up and do our part,’’ Hillman said.
Coach John Fox said McGahee’s injury, suffered in the second quarter of Denver’s 30-23 victory over San Diego Sunday, will not require surgery and that the Broncos had no immediate plans to put the 10th-year veteran on injured reserve. Asked about reports that McGahee had also fractured his leg, Fox said, ‘‘I don’t want to get into too much of the exacts, other than he will not be on IR.’’
By not putting him on injured reserve, the Broncos, at 7-3 and with a three-game lead in the AFC West, could be thinking about a playoff-time return for their leading rusher, who has 731 yards this year and was having one of his best games of the season — 55 yards on seven carries — before the injury Sunday.
In the meantime, they must find a fill-in for McGahee, who was more reliable than explosive and spearheaded a 19th-ranked running game that’s averaging 105.3 yards per contest. Unlike last season, when Tim Tebow was at the helm, the running game is more complementary than integral to an offense now run by Peyton Manning.
Ravens star safety Ed Reed was suspended for one game by the NFL for repeated hits to the head and neck area of defenseless players. The 11-year veteran will miss Sunday’s game against San Diego.
Reed is suspended for three violations of the player safety rules in the past three seasons. The latest came in Sunday night’s 13-10 victory over Pittsburgh when he was penalized for unnecessary roughness in the third quarter for a hit to the head of receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
Reed also was penalized Sept. 23 against the Patriots for unnecessary roughness and fined $21,000 for striking former Patriots receiver Deion Branch when he was defenseless. Before that, Reed hit Saints quarterback Drew Brees on Dec. 19, 2010, and was fined $10,000.
‘‘We cannot tolerate repeated violations of rules, especially rules related to player safety,’’ NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson said Monday.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh disagreed with the league’s ruling, saying: ‘‘I was very surprised, I didn’t see that one coming.’’
‘‘They were all inadvertent,’’ Harbaugh said of the three hits cited by the NFL. ‘‘None of those were with the intent to injure or to harm in any way.’’
Lions bench Young
The Lions are benching wide receiver Titus Young for Thursday’s game against the Texans following what coach Jim Schwartz called ‘‘unacceptable’’ behavior during Sunday’s loss to Green Bay. Schwartz did not characterize the move as a suspension, but said Young was sent home from the team’s practice facility Monday and will be inactive against the Texans. The coach did not say what Young specifically did wrong, but said there’s no room for selfish behavior in a team sport . . . Falcons offensive lineman Joe Hawley was suspended four games for violating NFL rules against performance-enhancing substances. Hawley is a backup behind longtime center Todd McClure. The suspension begins immediately, meaning Hawley can’t return to the Atlanta roster until Dec. 17.
Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather is out for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee, one day after his impressive season debut in a win over the Eagles. Meriweather went down without contact early in the third quarter of Sunday’s 31-6 victory. The former Patriots Pro Bowler had one interception, broke up two passes, and had seven tackles despite playing a little more than half of the game. . . Redskins linebacker London Fletcher, who has played in all 234 games of his NFL career, was wearing a walking boot Monday after spraining his ankle in Sunday’s game. He has to get well in a hurry if he’s to continue his streak: The Redskins play the Cowboys in a Thanksgiving game Thursday. ‘‘Knowing London, he’ll be back if possible,’’ coach Mike Shanahan said . . . The Jaguars named Chad Henne their starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Titans, the latest change for a team desperate to snap a seven-game losing streak. Coach Mike Mularkey made the announcement Monday, a day after Henne threw for 354 yards and four touchdowns in a 43-37 overtime loss at Houston. Henne replaced Blaine Gabbert, who injured his right forearm early in the game and had trouble gripping the ball . . . Vikings receiver Percy Harvin did not practice on Monday when the team returned to work after its bye week. Harvin is still working through a badly sprained left ankle that caused him to miss the game against Detroit before the bye.