With Peyton Manning out until at least mid-December, the Denver Broncos bolstered their depth at quarterback by signing Christian Ponder on Wednesday.

The former Vikings first-rounder will serve as the Broncos' third QB behind starter Brock Osweiler and Trevor Siemian, a rookie from Northwestern.

Ponder can't have the number he wore at Florida State or in Minnesota — No. 7 — which belongs to Hall of Fame QB John Elway, now the team's general manager. So, Ponder donned No. 2 instead.

The Vikings drafted Ponder with the 12th overall pick in 2011. He started 36 games for Minnesota but struggled to live up to expectations, throwing 38 TD passes and 36 interceptions while completing only 59.8 percent of his passes.

Ponder signed with Oakland in March but didn't survive final cuts.

Gifford may have had CTE

NFL great Frank Gifford, who died in August of reported natural causes, had a brain disease that may have stemmed from his Hall of Fame football career.

The family revealed that it had medical researchers study Gifford's brain after he died at age 84, and that those pathologists found evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative brain disease.

Gifford famously was knocked unconscious in a game. He had to sit out a season to fully recover from the violent tackle by another of the dwindling number of two-way players, Chuck Bednarik of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Another crucial referee mistake

The NFL said the Bills should have had a chance to run at least one more play against New England on Monday night after officials made the wrong call in allowing the final two seconds to run off the clock.

Appearing on NFL Network, league vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said head linesman Ed Walker should have stopped the clock when Bills receiver Sammy Watkins rolled backward out of bounds without being touched at midfield.

... NFL games are taking 3 minutes, 40 seconds longer to play this season than last year. A variety of factors contribute to the lengthier conclusions, including video reviews, major injuries and officiating discussions.

... Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch underwent surgery to repair an injury related to a sports hernia and will be sidelined for three to four weeks.

... Suspended Rams receiver Stedman Bailey was in intensive care and in stable condition at a Miami area hospital after undergoing a surgical procedure that the St. Louis Rams say lasted 4-6 hours for a bullet wound to the head after being shot while sitting in a car Wednesday night. Coach Jeff Fisher said he didn't anticipate Bailey would play again this season.


White Sox sign Avila

Free agent catcher Alex Avila and the White Sox agreed to a $2.5 million, one-year contract. ... The Athletics re-acquired infielder Jed Lowrie from the Astros for minor league righthander Brendan McCurry less than a year after Lowrie left Oakland to sign a three-year deal with Houston. ... The Braves agreed to a one-year contract with righthander Bud Norris.

around the horn

Boxing: Cuba's Erislandy Lara successfully defended his World Boxing Association super-welterweight title, stopping former welterweight champion Jan Zaveck in the third round.

Olympics: A government watchdog said that "flaws" in Brazil's border security are a "big concern" heading toward next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Augusto Nardes, a government auditor, told a news conference organized by Brazil's Justice Ministry that police and military need better ways to control the country's 17,000 kilometer-long (10,500-mile) border, which touches 10 countries and runs through remote areas of the Amazon jungle.