The future is now for the Broncos' first 2012 draft pick, DL Derek Wolfe.

When practice began Wednesday, the rookie was on the first team at DE in place of Jason Hunter, who will miss four months to a triceps injury, Broncos coach John Fox said.

The promotion was bittersweet for Wolfe, who counts Hunter as one of his mentors and credits him with helping get back up to speed after missing the organized team activities in May and June because the University of Cincinnati was still in its spring quarter, making Wolfe unable to take part.

"I wish him a speedy recovery, but I've got to step in and do my job. There's no time to sit back and wallow in that; J-Hunt's one of my good friends," Wolfe said. "I've just got to step in there and do what I've got to do."

The last two weeks, Wolfe and Hunter had split the dual DE/DT role handled last year by Robert Ayers, which involves being the left DE in the base formation and a DT in the nickel and dime, allowing LB Von Miller to rush from the DE spot. Wolfe's work as the pass-rush DT in that arrangement helped smooth the transition to being an every-down component of the first team.

"Me and Hunt have been doing a lot of rotation stuff, kind of working in, giving each other breaks and stuff, so it's not really that new to me; I've been doing it, so it's just doing it on a steady basis," Wolfe said. "That's something I'm going to have to get used to -- being out there the whole time."

Ayers, last year's starting LDE, remains on the second team.

Ramirez steps in: As expected, Manny Ramirez worked at right guard in place of Chris Kuper, who will miss the next four to six weeks because of a fractured forearm.

Ramirez had some double-duty Wednesday; he slid over to the center spot and worked with the first unit for a few plays. When Ramirez worked at center, RT Orlando Franklin moved inside to RG, leaving Chris Clark to handle Franklin's usual position.

"We're still pretty deep and flexible in the O-line," said Fox.

Not practicing: CB Tracy Porter (illness), safeties Quinton Carter (knee, hamstring) and Jim Leonhard (knee), LBs Danny Trevathan (ankle) and Keith Brooking (hamstring) and WR Tyler Grisham (knee) all sat out. DT Ty Warren was excused for a third consecutive day to tend to a family matter. LB D.J. Williams could not practice because he was on trial for DUI. CB Champ Bailey was given the day off per a "team decision," Fox said.

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