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Broncos ax vet Mobley to free roster spot

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

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."