Broncos top receiver Jerry Jeudy carted off field with right hamstring injury

Denver Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, left, scores in front of Arizona Cardinals safety Andre Chachere (31) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Glendale, Ariz., Friday, Aug. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — What started out as the Denver Broncos' deepest position group ended up as their thinnest after wide receiver Jerry Jeudy was carted off the field with a hamstring injury Thursday.

Jeudy was running an end-around in an 11-on-11 red zone drill in a joint practice with the Los Angeles Rams when he pulled up, grabbing his right hamstring and crumpling to the grass near the sideline.

He had to be helped to the cart, then was taken for an MRI.

“Hopefully it's not anything long term,” coach Sean Payton said.

The Broncos started training camp with Tim Patrick injuring his left Achilles almost a year to the day after tearing his right ACL. He'll miss his second straight season.

The same day Patrick got hurt, the Broncos lost KJ Hamler to a heart condition and last week they lost Jalen Virgil to a season-ending knee injury. He got hurt at the end of a 50-yard pass play against San Francisco just before halftime.

“I don't believe in being snake-bitten. I think we've had a really good offseason program,” Payton said, noting the likes of Justin Simmons and Mike McGlinchey are returning from injuries in time for the start of the season.

Jeudy’s injury leaves Courtland Sutton, rookie Marvin Mims Jr., second-year pro Brandon Johnson and Kendall Hinton as Russell Wilson’s top options heading into a preseason finale against the Rams in Denver this weekend.

A second-round pick out of Oklahoma, Mims' acclimation to the NFL as both a receiver and a kick returner has been slowed by a pair of hamstring pulls, although he appears to be fully recovered from those setbacks.

“He'll play quite a bit on Saturday," Payton said.

Jeudy missed two games last season while dealing with rib and left ankle injuries and a right high ankle sprain in 2021 sidelined him for six games.

Entering his fourth season, the 2020 first-round pick had emerged as Denver’s No. 1 receiver after a strong finish last season when he had 35 catches for 523 yards and three touchdowns over the final six weeks of the season.

Jeudy caught Wilson's only touchdown pass this preseason, a 21-yard score on fourth down against the Arizona Cardinals.

On the Rams' side, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who returned to practice this week after missing the previous three weeks because of a hamstring strain, said he expects to be ready to play in the team’s regular-season opener Sept. 10 against the Seattle Seahawks.

“It’s frustrating times right now, when you’re trying to get back to playing football again, but it feels good to be back, be out there with the guys and competing,” Kupp said. “I feel like I’m getting that rhythm. The ultimate goal is to be ready to go Week 1. I feel good about the path we’re on.”

Kupp began easing back into a practice routine earlier this week and participated in both joint practices against the Broncos.

“I thought he’s looked really good,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “We wanted to be limited with him today, but he’s gotten a lot of work over the last four days. That was really a ramp-up of his workload, but that was kind of what we wanted to be able to do. He’s looked really good. He looked like Cooper, and that’s an excellent player for us.”

Kupp, along with many of the Rams other starters, is not expected to play in the exhibition finale.