Broncos Head Coach Mike Shanahan says the injury to center Tom Nalen's elbow will likely keep him off the field for the rest of the season.
Nalen, a five-time Pro Bowler, suffered a torn bicep in the first quarter of the game against the Chargers, which the Broncos lost in a 41-3 rout.
"We couldn't even run inside running plays, had to run outside running plays," coach Mike Shanahan said Monday. "He didn't have any strength in there. It kind of gives you an idea of what he's made of."
It was their third straight loss this season and the worst home loss since 1966.
Nalen was not the only season-ending blow the Broncos suffered Sunday, tight end Nate Jackson is also out for the season with a severely torn groin, according to Shanahan.
Shanahan says that an MRI on cornerback Champ Bailey was negative for any serious injury to his left quadriceps. Bailey should be ready for the Pittsburgh game on October 21.
Nalen's injury is yet another key player to be hurt this season. Starting WR Javon Walker has sat out the past two games with an injury, and Guard Ben Hamilton has also been out with an injury.
Shanahan says Walker had a negative MRI, but would still be unavailable for this weekend if the Broncos were scheduled to play. This weekend is their bye week.
Shanahan said he didn't want to discuss who would start in Nalen's place, saying filling the void will be difficult. Chris Myers is listed as the backup on the Broncos' depth chart.
"Tom, I believe, is the best center to ever play the game," Shanahan said of the 14-year veteran. "That's what I believe."
Nalen is expected to have surgery within a week and will be out for close to four months. Shanahan didn't think the injury was career ending. "He should be fine and ready to go next season," Shanahan said.
Nalen is the second starting offensive lineman to go down. The team lost guard Ben Hamilton to a concussion in training camp. He was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Sept. 28.
Nalen hasn't missed a start since tearing a ligament in his left knee against Kansas City on Oct. 20, 2002. He had surgery to repair the knee and was back 10 months later in time to start the 2003 season, during which he earned his fifth Pro Bowl selection.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report. Copyright KUSA*TV. All rights reserved.)