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Broncos WR Smith to start on PUP list

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos placed wide receiver Rod Smith, their career receptions and touchdowns leader, on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list on Tuesday. Smith is recovering from offseason hip surgery. Smith will miss the first six weeks of the season.

The Denver Broncos formally cut ties Tuesday with two of their starters from last year: defensive end Kenard Lang and punter Paul Ernster.

Among other notable cuts were wide receiver-returner David Kircus, who is facing an assault charge stemming from an offseason fight, and defensive lineman Demetrin Veal, who played in 31 games for the Broncos over the last two seasons but didn't fit in new defensive coordinator Jim Bates' scheme.

Lang, an 11th-year pro, started all 16 games last year after Courtney Brown suffered a season-ending injury in camp. But he slid down the depth chart when the Broncos used three of their four draft picks in April on defensive linemen.

"It's always tough," coach Mike Shanahan said. "You take a guy like Kenard Lang. Kenard is a veteran player and a first-round draft choice that give you everything he's got. Obviously, we're going with some younger players. A true pro the way he practiced, the way he played, the way he helped the young players.

"We tried to be fair by letting him go a little earlier just so he could get the chance to play for another team," Shanahan said.

Rosters were trimmed to 75 Thursday. Final cuts come Saturday.

Ernster won the punting job last year after Todd Sauerbrun got into Shanahan's dog house for using the banned dietary aid ephedra, which led to a four-game suspension. He signed with New England but won his release from the Patriots this offseason and re-signed with Denver, where he was reunited with special teams coach Scott O'Brien, who helped make him a three-time Pro Bowler with the Carolina Panthers.

Ernster performed well in camp, but the Broncos went with Sauerbrun, a 13-year veteran who will make $1.4 million this season.

"Paul worked extremely hard and hopefully he'll catch on with another team," Shanahan said. "There aren't many players that can both kick off and punt. So he does bring a lot to the table."

Sauerbrun has had an up-and-down camp but pledged to repay Shanahan and O'Brien for their faith in him. He also welcomed the chance to get more playing time Thursday night in the preseason finale against Arizona.

"I just need more game (snaps), so I think this week will be good for me. I'll be able to take all the (snaps) in the game, so I think that's what I need."

Also cut were: kicker Brandon Pace; wide receiver David Terrell; running backs Cedric Cobbs and Troy Fleming; tight end Teyo Johnson; and safety Quentin Harris.

Kircus caught nine passes and returned six punts for the Broncos last year after spending a year away from football working in a sandwich shop. He's facing an Oct. 2 arraignment for a second-degree assault charge stemming from a May 20 fight in which he punched a 26-year-old man in the face. The charge carries a penalty of five to 16 years in prison.

Shanahan said Kircus's release had nothing to do with his legal troubles.

"David has great speed, he is a competitor. We just decided to go a different direction. But he does have some talent," Shanahan said.

The Broncos also moved tackle Doug Nienhuis (knee) and cornerback Lamont Reid (pectoral) to their reserve/NFL-Europe injured list. Johnson was waived/injured and will revert to Denver's injured reserve list should he clear waivers.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.

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