ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --It was the fourth quarter, the Broncos trailed by three scores, and Demaryius Thomas had already been to the X-ray room to be examined for what would later be be diagnosed as a leg bruise.
Having just absorbed another hit, he moved slowly and laboriously back to the line of scrimmage. But he wasn't coming out, and despite the accumulation of blows from Giants defenders, he stayed in the game, grappling until the end of the 23-10 loss.
"It took some guts to stay out there," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "He was actually nicked in and had an X-ray in the third quarter and came back to play.
Thomas' perseverance through pain also drew the praise and respect of his teammates.
"The way he fought through his injury [Sunday night] was special," wide receiver Bennie Fowler III said.
He slogged through for his most productive game of the season, finishing with 10 catches for 133 yards.
"He's a difference maker,'" quarterback Trevor Siemian said.
Thomas' night was marred by a fumble, but that came when he was fighting for yardage on fourth-and-5 in a desperate situation, attempting to keep a drive alive with his team down by three scores. He reached the line to gain, but lost the football as he got there.
Despite his production, that play rankled him.
"I could have played better, especially on the conversion," Thomas said. "I converted on fourth-and-5 and turned it over; that would've been big for us."
With Emmanuel Sanders and Isaiah McKenzie sidelined next week because of sprained ankles and Cody Latimer still battling a knee injury, the Broncos could need Thomas more than ever against the Chargers.
RAY SET FOR RETURN**
When the Broncos practice Wednesday, outside linebacker Shane Ray will be there for the first time since the second day of training camp -- a day that saw him practice with the ligaments in his wrist already torn.
Somehow, Ray practiced through that pain, persisting with a pain tolerance that seemed to rival Happy Gilmore taking a fusillade of baseballs to the chest and forehead in the batting cage.
"I blew my whole wrist out, and I looked at it, and it started popping. I started doing this," he said, waving his wrist, "and I was like, 'Why is my wrist popping?' and I called the training staff and I said, 'Hey, cut all this tape off my wrist off and put a brace on,' and they did that and I went out, finished practice and I was still getting sacks."
It was a pain that he still doesn't know how to describe, and yet he pushed through it.
"For me, I felt like I could play through it," he said. "If I practiced this day, and then I came out and practiced a second day, in my mind, I was like, 'Oh, it's probably just a sprain, like I just sprained it real good, and I'll probably have to do some treatment.' But I didn't realize that I blew my whole wrist out. It's just how it goes."
Nearly three months and a surgical procedure later, Ray has "no pain whatsoever," but will play at a lower weight than he carried into training camp.
The injury prevented him from extensive upper-body weight training, so he dropped from 244 pounds to 234 -- eight pounds below his typical playing weight. He said he expects to add mass over the rest of the season as he returns to upper-body weight work.
"With me being able to lift weights more, I'll naturally put on six pounds in an easy week and probably another four after that, and that's what I'll stay at," Ray said.
He was able to continue core work and lower-body conditioning, so he expects to lean on his speed and agility to attack opposing quarterbacks.
"Speed, body control, core work and legs have been my medley for this time period of being injured," Ray said. "My lower body and core is way stronger than it was before injured -- which I think is more important, because I can still win with a lot of speed, I can still win with quickness.
"I don't have to use power as much if I'm faster."
Ray will play with a cast on his wrist for the rest of the season, but it will not be an unwieldy apparatus.
"It's not like I have a club where I don't have access to my fingers or my thumbs," Ray said. I've got full movement in my fingers. My cast will be under my knuckles.
"As far as I'm concerned, if I can grab, I can play football, and it's time to go."
The cast will help protect Ray's wrist, which still has screws in it for stabilization purposes. In the offseason, he will have another procedure to remove them.
Photos by the Broncos' team photographers of Sunday night's game against the Giants. (photos by Gabriel Christus unless noted)