By JOHN MOSSMAN, AP Sports Writer -- It has been a dizzying ride for Lennie Friedman over the last 12 months, from a devastating knee injury that had him thinking his brief career was over to moving into a starting role - if only temporarily - on one of the NFL's best offensive lines.
Friedman, who has never played in a regular season NFL game, is starting at left guard while Mark Schlereth recuperates from arthroscopic knee surgery.
He started the first two preseason games for the Denver Broncos this year, and will start again Saturday night against Dallas.
It's a heady experience for a player who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last year during training camp of his rookie season.
``Really, it's his first year, getting hurt early in camp last year,' coach Mike Shanahan said. ``But he's been able to go to the meetings and he played a little bit in the World League and was able to get some experience there.
``He's done a really good job for a young guy coming in.'
Veteran offensive tackle Tony Jones also has been impressed with Friedman, but he won't tell him so. Jones is too busy giving Friedman grief as part of the initiation process that all young offensive linemen go through on this team.
``He's been doing a good job,' Jones said. ``He's been improving every week he's been here. But I won't tell him that. I never tell a young guy that.'
The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Friedman, the Broncos' second-round draft choice out of Duke, got a rude introduction into professional football a year ago.
``When I first got the report that I blew out my ACL, that's the first thought that came to mind, that my career was over,' Friedman said Thursday. ``But the coaching staff and Greek (trainer Steve Antonopulos) explained to me that it's a common injury and it's very easily fixed nowadays.
``Rehab was pretty tough, but it's supposed to be tough. That way you can get back quicker and be ready to play.'
Recovered from his injury, he played for the Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe last spring.
Being introduced as a starter at Mile High Stadium for the Broncos' first home preseason game last week against Green Bay was ``absolutely one of the most exciting moments in my football career. I was really excited and really energized to play the game.'
``Right now, I'm happy with the progress I've made, but I also know I have very far to go,' Friedman said.
He gets advice on a regular basis from Schlereth.
``He's been terrific,' Friedman said. ``He helps me with every play. Every time I have questions, he's there. He's a terrific player, and when he gets back I'm still going to ask him questions.'
Friedman said his biggest adjustment to the NFL is ``the speed of the game. Even coming over from NFL Europe, the game is so much faster than anything I've seen before.'
Friedman, a psychology major in college, plans a career in medicine once his playing career is over.
``I've always been interested in orthopedic surgery,' he said. ``When my career is done, I'm definitely thinking about it. But right now, I'm not thinking of anything but football. I have enough on my mind.'
Told that Broncos offensive guard Tommy Lyons attended medical school while playing for the team from 1971-76, Friedman said, ``He's probably a better man than I am. I'm thinking of taking some classes in the offseason, but not now.'
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