ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A day after their 37-6 victory against the Oakland Raiders, the Broncos were faced with unfortunate news: center J.D. Walton is headed to injured reserve with a fractured-dislocated left ankle.
Fortunately for Denver, a little less than three weeks ago, the team signed veteran center Dan Koppen, who will step into the starting lineup in Walton's place.
"We felt really good about the addition of him because he brings top-notch experience at that position," Head Coach John Fox said. "We had the opportunity to sign him and we did, and I'm glad we did."
Koppen moves into the middle of the offensive line at one of the most important positions on the field.
"In this league, the center does a lot for every team, because they're the center of everything," Head Coach John Fox said. "There's a lot of communication."
Much of that communication, Fox said, happens between the center and quarterback.
With a future Hall of Famer under center in quarterback Peyton Manning, that could be an intimidating task for a player taking over those duties midseason.
But Koppen already snapped to a future Hall of Famer -- Tom Brady -- during nine seasons in New England. In fact, he's the NFL's all-time winningest offensive lineman, with an overall career record of 107-31.
"He's got that experience," Fox said.
The 10th-year center said he's been fortunate to snap to Manning and Brady, but isn't thinking about that as he steps into his new starting role.
Rather, he's focused about getting up to speed with Denver's offense.
"I'm pretty familiar with it," he said. "I think it's along the same lines of what we ran in New England, which helped. Just a little bit different verbiage and all that stuff. Get out there this week and try to go from there."
When Walton went down with his injury late in the second quarter on Sunday, Koppen stepped in for the remainder of the game.
He was part of 42 snaps -- 54 percent of the offensive plays -- and seven special teams plays.
"I thought he did very well," Fox said. "One thing about NFL football is the tape is never as good as you think and it's never as bad as you think. We still have a lot of improving to do. Dan, with more reps in practice and a better understanding of our offense, he's capable of playing better, but he did a good job kind of on-the-job training just getting thrown out there quickly when J.D. went down. Considering all that, he did an excellent job."
Koppen, a two-time Super Bowl champion, said it's "unfortunate" that his playing time comes at the expense of Walton, but his teammates along the offensive line have been welcoming.
"They've been great," he said. "They've got a great group of guys here. Coming in from day one, everybody's been great. Just try to get acclimated to what they do and how they do things. Everybody's been helpful."
The 2007 Pro Bowler said he simply plans to execute his job and do whatever the coaches ask of him.
It just so happens that his first start as a Bronco comes against his former team.
"I'm sure it's going to be fun," he said. "A little bit different, a little bit of a different view, but it's still just football."
As for whether the matchup will provide any extra motivation, Koppen gave a veteran answer.
"I think anytime you step on the field you've got motivation," he said. "If you don't, then you're in the wrong business."