ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –First it was an ankle. Then a forearm. Then the ankle again.
Since Week 17 of the 2011 season, guard Chris Kuper has been battling back from injury.
On Tuesday, his teammates voted him as the Broncos' 2012 Ed Block Courage Award winner for exemplifying a commitment to the principles of sportsmanship. Recipients are selected by their teammates for team effort as well as individual performance.
"It's great," Kuper said of the honor. "Obviously you don't want to be in that situation because that means you've kind of had to fight through some injuries or adversity, but to be recognized as a guy who will do that, I think that's just part of being a professional."
The seventh-year guard worked all offseason to rehab his 2011-ending ankle injury, only to suffer a broken forearm during training camp in August.
He missed a total of nine games due to injury this season, but returned to practice on Tuesday.
"He's a guy who's been in and out of the lineup all year," Head Coach John Fox said. "He's worked very hard to get back."
He missed the first four games of the season with the forearm injury before returning in a limited role for Denver's Week 5 game at New England.
The team captain was back in the starting lineup the following week at San Diego and started the team's following two games before spraining his ankle at Cincinnati in Week 10.
"What (Kuper) has been through from an injury standpoint, certainly physically it's taken its toll," quarterback Demaryius Thomas said. "That's a real challenge mentally, I can just tell you that from my experience last year. He's had a positive attitude, he's worked hard."
After missing a pair of games with that injury, Kuper came back to start Denver's Week 12 at Kansas City and AFC West-clinching victory vs. Tampa Bay the following week.
He was forced out of the lineup for the next three games when the ankle injury flared up again, coupled with migraine headaches. Kuper played on special teams in the regular-season finale against the Chiefs.
"He has had a rough, rough season," Fox said after that game. "My hat's off to him. He is a tough young man. He was voted captain by his peers. We wanted to get him back into the flow of things and we thought today was a smart way to do it."
Despite missing nine games this season, Kuper was named a second alternate to the AFC's Pro Bowl squad.
Manning, who has continued to rehabilitate from a neck injury that forced him to miss the entire 2011 season, has seen first-hand just how hard Kuper has worked to get back on the field.
"He and I have spent a lot of time in the training room together," Manning said. "To see him back out there through the different things he's dealt through from this year and years past … it's a great lift to the team."
Since the 2011 ankle injury ended Kuper's season, the guard is looking to appear in his first career postseason game when the Broncos host the Ravens in the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs on Saturday.
"It would be great to have him in there on Saturday," Manning said. "The chance for him to play in his first playoff game, I can remember that -- it's a long time ago. That's an exciting opportunity and I'm real happy for Chris for that opportunity."
Kuper said that since his first injury, he's been working towards making it back to the postseason.
"This is what I've been pointing toward since I got here," Kuper said. "I started last year with an injury. I was doing everything I could during the season to come back.
"To be available for the playoffs is big."
Last year the Broncos united around their injured captain in the postseason.
This year, they are hoping he will be able to join them on the field.
"Just to see—I remember watching that game on TV last year," wide receiver Brandon Stokley said. "What he went through and what he's done to come back from it is pretty spectacular. It's well deserved. He's fought through it. He's a team guy, and when he's one those guys that when he's on the field, everybody looks to and rallies around. Hopefully we'll have him out there this week."