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Suspensions will force Broncos to adjust how they make cut to 53 players

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Broncos' Ward suspended for season opener

ESPN Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold explains why T.J. Ward's suspension is good news for the Broncos and how they will replace him against the Ravens.

DENVER -- While most of the NFL was caught in the swirl of a player who will now not be suspended to open the season, the Denver Broncos will have to consider two of the league’s discipline rulings that were upheld when they make their roster decisions Friday and Saturday.

The Broncos, like the rest of the league, must trim their roster to 53 players by 2 p.m. MT Saturday. And because of two discipline rulings the Broncos will have to adjust things. The Broncos close out the preseason Thursday night against the Arizona Cardinals.

Safety T.J. Ward, suspended for the season opener because of the NFL's personal conduct policy, and defensive end Derek Wolfe, who is suspended the first four games of the regular season for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances, will be moved to reserve/suspended when rosters go to 53 players.

That means the Broncos will keep two players who may not have made the initial roster had Ward and Wolfe not been suspended. The Broncos would have to make a cut when each player finishes his respective suspension and is reinstated.

David Bruton Jr. is expected to take on the bulk of Ward’s duties in the starting defense, but the Broncos have also tinkered with some personnel groupings with cornerback Bradley Roby at safety as well.

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has called Bruton very versatile and "one of the smartest guys we have.’’ And with tackle Ryan Clady on injured reserve, Bruton is the longest-tenured former Broncos draft pick on the roster.

Bruton was a fourth-round pick in the 2009 draft.

But Ward’s suspension means the Broncos could keep an extra defensive back for a week. Josh Bush has had a heavy load of special-teams work in training camp and is an option or the Broncos could keep an extra cornerback to put off some difficult decisions there between rookie Lorenzo Doss and veteran Tony Carter.

In the end Wolfe’s suspension is more problematic because it is for the first month of the season. To keep Wolfe engaged, the Broncos gave him his usual rotations with the starters in training camp practices and in the first three preseason games.

The Broncos are deep at the position and were already facing some tough choices. Also in the equation is the fact defensive end Kenny Anunike had arthroscopic surgery on his knee in August and though he got his stitches out this past week, he remains a question mark for the opener.

Wolfe’s suspension could help a player like Sione Fua make the roster, even though he is an interior player. The Broncos could also choose to go one lineman light in the final tally and keep an additional player at their deepest position -- linebacker.

“We know we have tough, tough choices,’’ coach Gary Kubiak said this past week.