ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — C.J. Anderson was bracing for a prolonged recovery as he prepared to undergo surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his right knee late Thursday.
Before heading into the operating room in Northern California, the Denver Broncos' leading rusher tweeted thanks to his fans for their prayers and said, "We will not know til after the procedure if i am done for the season or if I can come back to help my team to #51."
Anderson was Denver's offensive star in Super Bowl 50, rushing for 90 yards and a touchdown in the Broncos' 24-10 win over Carolina. That helped garner a four-year, $18 million offer from the Dolphins in restricted free agency that the Broncos matched. The front-loaded contract paid him $6 million this year.
Anderson is the Broncos' leading rusher with 437 yards on 110 carries and four touchdowns, including a season-best 107 yards and a TD on 16 carries Monday night against Houston in his best performance of the season.
He did it despite hurting his right knee on his second carry.
"He is a leader of this team and that's a big role," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. "We don't know the timetable right now, but he will be missed for this game and the rest of the season if it comes to that. He deserves to be around. He worked hard for the contract. He had had been playing great last season and playing great this season, but we'll miss him for sure."
The Broncos broke out of a prolonged funk by running for 190 yards in their 27-9 win over the Texans. Anderson's right knee slightly buckled as he made a cut on the final play of the first quarter, an 11-yard run.
"He came in and said, 'I felt something,'" running back Kapri Bibbs recounted. "But he said, 'I'm good now. I feel real good. And he went back in the game an obviously was able to rush for 107 yards and carried the team and carried us to a win."
That's what gives coach Gary Kubiak hope that Anderson will be back sometime this season.
"I think the positive thing is he played in the game and he played through it," Kubiak said. "It's obviously something that they need to go and repair, so we have to see to what degree that is. Let's find out."
Anderson didn't have a limp after the game and the Broncos left the stadium feeling good about their rejuvenated ground game that included 83 yards on 17 carries from rookie Devontae Booker, who scored his first career touchdown and now will become their starter.
Anderson, who wasn't limping after the game, showed up sore Tuesday and the team's medical staff diagnosed a torn meniscus. Anderson flew to California for a second opinion on Wednesday and was prepped for surgery late Thursday after doctors confirmed the initial diagnosis.
Bibbs said there's no reason the Broncos (5-2), who play San Diego (3-4) on Sunday, can't still have a powerful 1-2 punch without Anderson.
"Book is ready to play; I'm ready to play," Bibbs said. "And I don't think there's going to be any drop-off. I think we're going to go in there and we're going to handle our business."
The Broncos had a first-round grade on Booker but were able to grab him in the fourth round after he slid because of concerns about two knee surgeries to repair a torn meniscus he suffered in his final game at Utah in November.
The running back who really turned their heads this year, however, was Bibbs, whose improvement over the offseason led them to jettison fifth-year pro Ronnie Hillman, their leading rusher last season.
"I don't think there's an area where he hasn't improved," offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said. "I think he's improved in his detail, his urgency. Obviously, he's always had very good run skills, that's why he's here. But everything that he does he's gotten better at it and worked extremely hard."