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Broncos minicamp Day 1 observations: As QB rotation continues, Sean Payton says he has a “gut” f

The Broncos quarterback rotation continued on Day 1 of the team’s mandatory minicamp Tuesday.

Head coach Sean Payton indicated it may go this way well into training camp, as well.

The first day of Denver’s three-day minicamp saw Jarrett Stidham run the first-team reps, Zach Wilson the second-team and Bo Nix the third-team.

That’s in keeping with how Payton and the offensive staff ran the three weeks of organized team activities, too, with each quarterback getting a day each week with the top group.

“Every day we’re rolling them different with the ones, twos and threes and we’re kind of doing the same thing with a lot of the position groups,” Payton said Tuesday. “I just feel like this is the time of the year to do that.”

Soon enough, it won’t be. Payton, though, said he doesn’t feel rushed to make a decision on a starter between the rookie Nix, the journeyman Stidham and the reclamation project Wilson.

“I have an end-game, that would be the week before the first game,” Payton said. “But I don’t have a set date. … I don’t have a date. I have a gut.”

Payton downplayed the idea that any of the three would benefit from getting most of a training camp’s worth of reps with the No. 1 group.

“I think most important is the right decision,” he said.

Stidham’s command of the offense is clear and has been on display since the beginning of OTAs when practice has been open to reporters. On Tuesday, he threw a well-timed deep crosser to Marvin Mims Jr. for a big gain that probably went as the offensive play of the day.

“Clearly within the framework of what we’re doing, he’s much further along than Year 1 and that transition,” Payton said of Stidham. “He’s looked real sharp during this offseason program. Real decisive. There’s leadership he’s able to provide there.

“There’s good competition.”

Denver Broncos quarterback Jarrett Stidham (8) works out during organized team activities at Broncos Park Powered by CommonSpirit in Englewood, Colorado on June 4, 2024. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)
Denver Broncos quarterback Jarrett Stidham (8) works out during organized team activities at Broncos Park Powered by CommonSpirit in Englewood, Colorado on June 4, 2024. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

A pair of offensive veterans on Tuesday noted that Nix’s approach so far belies his status as a rookie. That’s a common refrain around the Broncos building. Partially because Nix is 24 years old and started an FBS-record 61 games in college, but also because he’s seemingly settled into life as a pro quickly.

“It almost feels in a sense like he’s been here before,” left guard Quinn Meinerz said.

Added receiver Courtland Sutton, on the field for the first time after skipping the voluntary portion of the offseason amid a contract “stalemate,”: “Obviously I understand the politics of the game and I know everyone’s probably looking for (Nix) to be the guy. He does a lot of things really well and he has the ability to be able to go out and have success early.”

Payton on Tuesday said that oftentimes the answer becomes clear for both coaches and the players on the roster as the regular season nears.

“We always talk about the locker room and the players in the locker room,” he said. “I think when we get into training camp and we get into preseason games, I think oftentimes the decisions take care of themselves. The objective is to win. I understand the question relative to (the big picture), but in our league it’s year to year. Man, we’re trying to win this year and we’re going to make the right decision relative to who gives us that opportunity.”

Elsewhere at Broncos minicamp

• Denver as expected had strong attendance for the mandatory work. The only player not seen was linebacker Drew Sanders, who has been out all of OTAs after tearing an Achilles tendon in April.

• Players limited to conditioning work or otherwise out of action included: TEs Adam Trautman (core) Greg Dulcich (foot/hamstring) and Dylan Leonard; safeties Brandon Jones, Caden Sterns (knee) and Delarrin Turner-Yell (knee); and RB Audric Estime (left knee). Estime’s return to the side field came only a couple of weeks after Payton said he had a scope and a platelet-rich plasma injection for an injury last month.

• Dulcich may have a chance to participate in minicamp as the week goes along. Said Payton: “He’s doing really well. … We’ll be smart in our approach and then there’s a couple guys that we have a chance to see more work from tomorrow than today.”

• Denver had six tryout players on hand for the first day of minicamp, including WR Ra’shaun Henry, CB Kyler McMichael, TE Feleipe Franks, TE Hunter Kampmoyer, DL Blaine Hoover, LB Jordan Kunaszyk and OLB Andre Smith. Franks was a collegiate quarterback at Florida and Arkansas and is trying to make the move to tight end. He appeared in 20 games for the Falcons in 2021-22. Smith and Kunaszyk have each played extensively in the NFL. Smith has played 62 games for four teams over the past six seasons. Kunaszyk was a special teams player in Cleveland the past two years and has appeared in 46 games over five NFL seasons.

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WR Courtland Sutton, Broncos are at “stalemate” in contract negotiations

WR Courtland Sutton, Broncos are at “stalemate” in contract negotiations

12/06/2024, USA, American Football, NFL, Article # 31811452

Wide receiver Courtland Sutton said he and the Broncos have not found a middle ground in contract negotiations.

“We are at a stalemate in a sense,” Sutton said after the first day of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday. “But I have confidence and faith that the right thing will be done.”

Sutton will be an unrestricted free agent in 2026. He has a cap hit of $17.3 million in 2024 and $17.8 million in 2025. However, he doesn’t have any guaranteed money outside of the $2 million for this season, according to Over the Cap.

Sutton, who caught 10 touchdowns passes in 2023, said he did not participate in OTAs as he was in Florida rehabbing from offseason ankle surgery. NFL Network previously reported that Sutton’s absence had something to do with him seeking a new deal.

“Coach (Sean Payton) and I were on the same page of me staying down there and (continuing) to get my ankle where I need it to (be) so I can ultimately get ready for the season,” Sutton said.

Sutton didn’t confirm if he will show up for training camp next month if his contract situation is not resolved.

“We’ll see what happens. We have a month to be able to get things situated,” said Sutton.

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49ers running back Christian McCaffrey gets honored with Madden NFL 25 cover

49ers running back Christian McCaffrey gets honored with Madden NFL 25 cover

12/06/2024, USA, American Football, NFL, Article # 31811028

Christian McCaffrey grew up playing the Madden NFL video game with his brother, dreaming of being a player in the league one day.

Getting on the cover of the famed video game was never even a consideration.

Electronic Arts Inc. announced Tuesday that the San Francisco 49ers star running back will be on the cover of EA Sports Madden NFL 25 that launches worldwide on Aug. 16.

“It’s a huge honor,” said McCaffrey, who starred at Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch. “It’s something that I never really imagined happening to me. I always envisioned playing in the league and having success in the league. But being on the cover of Madden just never crossed my mind. I never thought that would happen to me.”

McCaffrey won the AP Offensive Player of the Year last season when he helped San Francisco reach the Super Bowl. He led the NFL with 2,023 yards from scrimmage and was tied for the NFL lead with 21 touchdowns.

The honor of the Madden cover comes a week after McCaffrey signed a two-year extension worth $38 million to remain under contract with the 49ers through the 2027 season. McCaffrey became the rare running back to cash in on a second big veteran deal as he pushes to raise the salary bar for a position that has seen little growth at the top of the market in the past decade.

McCaffrey is the first running back on the Madden cover since 2014, when Barry Sanders was on the worldwide cover and Adrian Peterson was on an alternate version for PS4 and XBox One.

“I think it’s big,” McCaffrey said about a running back getting the cover. “Hopefully it’s a step in the right direction for running backs. Over the last few years we’ve been a little bit slighted. So I’m hoping we can get things back to where they should be.”

The only other running backs to be featured on the worldwide cover are Peyton Hills (2012), Shaun Alexander (2007), Marshall Faulk (2003) and Eddie George (2001).

Garrison Hearst was on the international cover in 1999 and was the only 49ers player to be on any cover before McCaffrey this season.

McCaffrey hopes the publicity from the cover will help publicize a cause that is important to him. McCaffrey’s foundation launched the Logan Project last year to honor the memory of one of his young fans, Logan Hale, who died of cancer at age 13 in 2021.

McCaffrey sent a signed jersey to Hale late in his battle with cancer and Hale was buried in it. McCaffrey then learned about Hale’s wish to buy video game consoles for children’s hospitals around the country and sought to carry on that goal.

“It’s inspiring,” McCaffrey said about Hale’s wish. “It’s humbling. I think it’s a lesson for everybody, that even when you’re going through tough times, think of others. Don’t be so self-consumed with yourself. Here’s a young boy who’s not even in high school who’s going through one of the worst things a kid can go through, being extremely selfless.”

The McCaffrey Foundation has donated more than 45 gaming consoles to hospitals around the country and has sponsored the Logan Bowl the past two years that features eight NFL players participating in a Madden tournament to raise money for the Logan Project. Chiefs receiver Hollywood Brown won this year’s tournament.

“I think there’s so many cool things that we can do with this,” McCaffrey said. “I think there’s a bunch of cool things we can do. Obviously, we’ll have to put our creativity to use and put my team’s minds together so that we can maximize the potential of where this thing can go and hopefully help a lot of kids out and put as many gaming consoles in hospitals as we can across the country.”

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Keeler: Why wait, Broncos? Sooner Bo Nix is named Sean Payton’s QB 1, the better. Here’s why.

Jon Cooper goes so far back with Sean Payton, he remembers when the Broncos coach was the second-smartest guy in the room.

“I watched him play football in high school (in Chicago), that’s how far back I go with Sean,” Cooper, associate general manager and senior draft analyst with the Ourlads scouting service, chuckled over the phone. “I know what kind of competitor he is. His learning curve in the NFL really got a boost working with Bill Parcells.

“There’s some Bill Parcells now in how he operates. The Broncos are in some good hands, in my opinion.”

He thinks Bo Nix is in good hands, too.

Heck, he thinks Nix and Payton are destined to go together like green chiles and smashed ground beef.  More to the point, he thinks the two will be ready to serve, hot and fresh, at Seattle. Week 1. Right outta the chute.

“I’m not sure Zach Wilson is going to become a better quarterback from working with Sean,” Cooper said. “And Nix is a veteran with all that college experience. (As a) guy who’s played a lot of football, there’s an advantage, to a degree.

“There’s some inconsistency (with Nix). And I think where Sean can help is develop that consistency and develop some consistent things in his mechanics and also the mental side of playing quarterback. They’ll be coming up with a teaching plan – there’s a lot of teaching with a (rookie) QB, and Sean will be involved with some plans. But my confidence level is pretty high with him, obviously.”

And the meter’s running. Nix will be 24-and-a-half during the preseason. He’s older than Trey Lance. He’s older than Sam Howell. He’s older than Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson.

You didn’t draft a kid. And you sure as heck didn’t draft him to lug Jarrett Stidham’s clipboard around for six weeks.

“Bo Nix (needs) consistency to get to that next level of QB,” Cooper said. “He’s inconsistent. He’s got a strong arm. He’s a big, tough kid. There are some inconsistencies there, some mechanical things he’s going to have to work on. But with Sean, I’d trust Sean more than almost anybody when it comes to QBs.”

Cooper, who coached high-school ball in Illinois back when a teenage Payton was slinging it as a QB all over the Windy City, is into his sixth decade of either coaching or scouting football. He’s forgotten more about the game than most of us will remember. If we’re lucky.

All that being said, I wondered, why did one of the NFL’s most venerated QB fixers go nuclear on Russell Wilson, only to let the capologists deal with the fallout?

“Obviously, Russell Wilson was not the best match,” Cooper laughed. “But Russell Wilson kind of wore out his welcome at a number of places.”

You don’t say.

“There’s not always a perfect match,” Cooper continued. “The nice thing about an NFL team developing a QB and drafting one is that they do an awful lot of research on these guys.

“An old GM told me that ‘You don’t really know for sure until you get them in the building. You can watch film, you can see them at the combine, but you don’t know for sure what you have to work with until you get them in the building.’”

Yet Payton, for all that gravitas, never really drafted a true successor to Drew Brees in New Orleans. He never built a franchise QB from scratch before.

“There’s some truth to that,” Cooper said of the whole Payton-rookie-QB quandary. “But on the other hand, he’s evaluated the QBs he could’ve possibly drafted.

“He takes a great approach. He understands. He listens. He understands what guys have to work with. I think there were three or four QBs in this draft that he would’ve been able to develop had he been unable to draft one of those top 6 QBs.”

Shove a rookie signal-caller into the deep end before he’s ready, everybody drowns.

The pro football QB growth curve isn’t always linear. Or logical. Carson Wentz and Robert Griffin III burned hot, burned fast and flamed out. Kurt Warner found his footing at age 28, lost it at 33, and found it at 36 again. Joe Flacco stole John Elway’s money at 34, then steered the Browns to the playoffs at 38.

As rookies go, Justin Herbert made it look easy. Stroud made it look fun. The latter also slotted into a friendlier cockpit with a more illustrious supporting cast. Pro Football Focus ranked three members of the Texans offense among their top 101 highest-graded players last fall, including Stroud (No. 100), who was joined by tackle Laremy Tunsil (No. 55) and wideout Nico Collins (No. 34). The Broncos produced one, in left tackle Garett Bolles (No. 99).

“You don’t know for sure. You just don’t know,” Cooper sighed. “But the thing is, knowing Sean and seeing how he’s operated, the odds are good that Bo Nix will be successful.

“So that’s all a part of it. They’re all pieces of the puzzle. But it’s going to take a while. It just might not take as long as you might think.”

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Broncos minicamp storylines: Quarterbacks, Courtland Sutton and a position group with big question m

Schools are letting out for summer around the country and break arrives for the Broncos by the end of this week, too.

There’s plenty of work left to be done, though, over the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp, which begins Tuesday.

These are the first mandatory days of the offseason. Most players and coaches have been participating in the voluntary work since before the NFL Draft. Head coach Sean Payton likes several of those weeks to be mostly about the weight room rather than on-field work.

Now, though, they’ll get part of this week to go over more installations and provide the final tune-up before everybody disappears for a few weeks and returns at the end of July for training camp.

Here are a couple of storylines worth watching the next three days:

QB race movement?

Payton’s approach to three weeks of organized team activities was pretty straightforward. Three quarterbacks, three days per week. Each one got a day running with the top offense each week.

A three-day minicamp, then, should also be straightforward for Bo Nix, Jarrett Stidham and Zach Wilson, right?

We’ll find out.

Payton and company can continue splitting things up evenly between the three quarterbacks this week, but the rubber is going to meet the road quickly when training camp starts. Will Payton name a starter early in camp? Or will the offensive braintrust at least start tilting repetitions toward one or two of the trio? Given the overall inexperienced among the three, whoever ends up starting Week 1 would certainly benefit from as many training camp reps as possible.

Payton could also instead start to tinker with the number of reps this week.

In the three open practices (out of 10 total) in recent weeks, Stidham and Nix have played more consistently than Wilson. None has been leaps and bounds better than the others, at least as far as outside observation goes.

“This group of quarterbacks in general are kind of like gym rats,” Payton said last week. “They enjoy the process. It’s been a good room. … These guys are doing well. They’re pushing each other.”

Whether the Broncos stick on their OTA plan for the quarterbacks or start to shift the reps some, Nix, Stidham and Wilson will continue to be the biggest story of the summer for Denver.

Hello, Court

The quarterbacks will have Courtland Sutton in the building for the first time this offseason, too. Denver’s top receiver skipped the voluntary portion of workouts to make it clear he wants his contract addressed. He confirmed last week, though, that he’ll be in town this week for the mandatory work.

One outstanding question, though: How much actual practice time will he get? Sutton doesn’t have to be a full practice participant to avoid about $100,000 in fine money. He just has to be in attendance.

Payton has repeatedly spoken highly of Sutton’s work ethic, and the 29-year-old receiver has been working out on his own in Florida. So will Denver throw him right into a heavy workload? Get him some reps with the quarterback? Or have him mostly as an observer this week?

TE Progress?

There are jobs up for grabs across the roster, but most of them won’t be settled until sometime in training camp.

Cornerback No. 2? Prime spots in the receiver rotation? Running back? Center? Inside linebacker next to Alex Singleton? All  will be down-ballot from the quarterback race but interesting nonetheless two months from now.

One position that has as many question marks as any, though, is tight end. Payton gushed about Lucas Krull recently, saying after one strong practice that he told Krull, “Someday soon, they’re going to know who 85 is.”

Another consideration is whether it’s possible the Broncos will see Greg Dulcich back this week for minicamp. He’s been working out on the side field during open OTA practices as he rehabs from hamstring and foot injuries that combined to cost him nearly all of 2023.

Payton early in OTAs said that, “it’s not going to be (that) we don’t see him until training camp.”

In terms of on-field work, this will be Dulcich’s last chance before camp.

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A leap of faith led safety P.J. Locke to Denver in 2019. Now he reaps the rewards

A leap of faith led safety P.J. Locke to Denver in 2019. Now he reaps the rewards

09/06/2024, USA, American Football, NFL, Article # 31806760

Standing behind 20 people, waiting to sign his contract with the Tampa Vipers, an XFL team, P.J. Locke faced a dilemma.

It was the fall of 2019, and the hard-hitting safety had just gone through one of the roughest times in his career. In August, the Pittsburgh Steelers cut him after signing him as an undrafted free agent out of Texas. While stuck in football purgatory, Locke’s pockets had dried up.

The XFL presented a chance to earn cash while continuing to play a sport that’s been a part of his life since childhood. Still, the desire to be an NFL player weighed heavy on his heart.

One night in 2011, Locke wandered into the bedroom of his dad, James Locke Jr., and promised he would do whatever it took to play on football’s biggest stage.

“Are you willing to do whatever it takes?” James asked Locke before his son went to a computer and typed up a contract, saying he would make the necessary sacrifices to reach the NFL. “He brought it to my bedroom, and we signed it on March 17, 2011. From that day forward, he did something every day to (get) better.”

Locke — a Beaumont, Texas native — approached the iPad to sign his deal with the Vipers when the device crashed. Maybe fate had other plans.

While he waited for the iPad to restart, Locke received a text message from his agent, saying he could play in the XFL or work out for the Indianapolis Colts and Broncos, even though it was uncertain that he would make the roster. “I didn’t know what to do,” he told The Denver Post.

Time was running out. He reached out to James, who told him to get on the plane and go to the workouts. But that meant turning down guaranteed money. Locke’s life-changing decision ultimately came down to the memory of his late grandmother, Carolene, and his family’s Christian beliefs about snakes being symbols of the devil.

“I knew my grandma would flip over her grave if she knew I was playing for a team (whose mascot) was a snake, so I’m gonna bet on myself,” Locke said as he walked away from the XFL and went to Denver.

Locke’s journey has been unconventional, but his grit and faith allowed him to reap the benefits. He signed to the Broncos practice squad and spent three seasons as a core special teamer before having a career year in 2023, which resulted in a two-year, $7 million deal and an opportunity to have a significant role in Denver’s secondary this fall.

“I’m in a way better place,” he said.

“I needed the money, man”

Locke was conditioned to withstand anything that came at him.

When he was 10, James told him to go to the front yard with his football uniform. “His pants were baggy, and his pads twisted to the side,” James said. “Nothing fit right on him.”

P.J. got into a three-point stance before James asked “Are you steady?” Suddenly, James took his forearm and hit Locke, causing his son to fly backward. With his helmet twisted sideways, P.J. sat up and said, “Daddy, why did you do that?”

Brock Purdy (15) of the Iowa State Cyclones attempts to hurdle P.J. Locke III (11) of the Texas Longhorns in the fourth quarter at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Nov. 17, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Brock Purdy (15) of the Iowa State Cyclones attempts to hurdle P.J. Locke III (11) of the Texas Longhorns in the fourth quarter at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Nov. 17, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

“If you survived that hit from me, nobody is going to hit you that hard,” James told his son.

Later, James thought he may have created a monster because P.J. took those words literally. According to James, Locke played youth football as if he were invincible, no longer afraid of taking contact or initiating it. That fearless mindset traveled with Locke throughout his football career.

At Texas, Locke became a physical player who delivered impactful hits. For former Longhorns safeties coach Craig Naivar, Locke’s mental toughness was just as valuable.

“That young man personifies grit,” said Naivar, now the defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Coastal Carolina. “He’s going to find a way to get the job done.”

Eventually, Locke learned it would take a special kind of grit to withstand the business of the NFL.

After Locke started in 30 career games with the Longhorns, he signed a deal with the Steelers that included a $2,000 signing bonus.

“But I ended up getting like $1,300 after taxes,” Locke added.

Locke understood the uphill climb it would take to make the 53-man roster, so his intuition told him to save the money just in case of a rainy day.

Sure enough, on Aug. 31, it poured. Locke went through the entire preseason before being waived during the final roster cuts. He called James to deliver the bad news that his NFL dreams were put on hold.

“I just remember that phone call. … He said, ‘Dad, I’m coming home,’” James recalled. “He was encouraged that he would at least be on the practice squad and have an opportunity to make the roster. But at the last minute, something happened, and they cut him.”

Back in Beaumont, Locke’s football career was in limbo. James said P.J. was shell-shocked. As a standout player at the youth, high school and college levels, P.J. had never been cut. The idea of an NFL team saying he wasn’t good enough took a toll.

With his signing bonus from Pittsburgh running low, he started working at his dad’s construction company, overseeing projects. James has owned the company for 25 years, and P.J. worked for him every day in the morning before training in the afternoon. During that time, James noticed his son’s hunger to get back on the field.

Locke saw an opportunity to play football again when he was drafted by the Vipers in the XFL — which would merge with the USFL to form the UFL in 2023. He flew to Florida for practice and to sign a contract that required him to play the entire season, even if an NFL team wanted him.

With the XFL, Colts and Broncos awaiting his decision, Locke stuck true to his faith.

“I needed the money, man. … (But) my family doesn’t like snakes,” said Locke, who also turned down a college scholarship to play at Arizona State because their mascot is a Sun Devil.

He left Tampa and went to Indianapolis, where the Colts said they would consider signing him to a futures deal. Two weeks later, the Broncos told him the same thing.

“I missed out on money,” Locke said to himself as he returned to Texas, hoping to hear back from either team.

After he attended a December graduation for his then-girlfriend, Janeil — whom he married in 2020 — the Broncos called, saying they wanted to sign him to the practice squad.

Denver Broncos cornerback Ja'Quan McMillian (35), P.J. Locke (6) and safety Justin Simmons (31) enter the field for Denver Broncos Back Together Weekend training camp practice at Centura Health Training Center July 29, 2023. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)
Denver Broncos cornerback Ja’Quan McMillian (35), P.J. Locke (6) and safety Justin Simmons (31) enter the field for Denver Broncos Back Together Weekend training camp practice at Centura Health Training Center July 29, 2023. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

“Those are snaps he’s earned”

Locke was back in the NFL, but his financial situation remained the same. He had less than $200 to his name, and when he arrived in Denver, the organization had already given out its biweekly paychecks to players.

“It was the last two weeks of the season, too, so I had to make this (money) stretch,” said Locke, who would get his breakfast, lunch and dinner from the training facility before returning to the hotel the Broncos had him staying in at the time. “That’s how I was saving money (until) I got the check that pretty much held me down for the rest of the offseason.”

When the Broncos secondary gathered for a meal at STK, an upscale steakhouse where the most affordable entrée is a $21 platter of chicken fingers, Locke had to come clean with his teammates.

Former Broncos safeties Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson helped foot the bill. And after that night, Locke put his head down and went to work.

He knew there would be more dinners in the future, plus he had a son on the way, so he had to do whatever it took to stay in the league. Following training camp in 2020, Locke was cut from the Broncos but immediately signed to the practice squad. Eight days later, Denver elevated him to the active roster ahead of its season-opening matchup against the Tennessee Titans.

Locke made a name for himself on special teams for three seasons until taking his game to another level in 2023. He had a conversation with head coach Sean Payton about his role on defense and how he wanted to be a player that brought pressure on the quarterback.

While Jackson faced multiple suspensions due to illegal hits, Locke took advantage of the opportunity, starting in eight of 12 games played. He recorded his first career interception to secure Denver’s win over the Green Bay Packers in Week 7. Later, Locke recorded a sack in three straight contests. He finished the season posting career bests in tackles (53), sacks (three), passes defended (five) and defensive snaps (539).

“He’s smart and he’s tough. Those are snaps he’s earned,” Payton said.

The Broncos rewarded Locke for his efforts, signing him to a deal with an average salary of $3.5 million and a $2 million signing bonus, according to Over the Cap.

Denver Broncos safety P.J. Locke (6) heads to the north end zone with teammate Ja'Quan McMillian (29) in celebration after intercepting a pass intended for Green Bay Packers wide receiver Samori Toure (83) late in the fourth quarter at Empower Field at Mile High, October 22, 2023. The Broncos won 19-17. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)
Denver Broncos safety P.J. Locke (6) heads to the north end zone with teammate Ja’Quan McMillian (29) in celebration after intercepting a pass intended for Green Bay Packers wide receiver Samori Toure (83) late in the fourth quarter at Empower Field at Mile High, October 22, 2023. The Broncos won 19-17. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

“I’ve been speaking things into existence”

Locke is not satisfied, and that may be a good thing.

With Simmons no longer on the team, Denver will need Locke to take on a larger role. Through three weeks of organized team activities, Payton noticed Locke stepping up as a leader within the secondary — a role Simmons had been known for.

Even though Locke feels he is still writing his testimony, he said it’s important to share his story with the rest of his teammates so they can keep striving toward their goals.

“I’m excited. The secondary couldn’t be left in better hands with (Locke) and (cornerback) Pat (Surtain II) leading the charge,” Simmons said.

Locke hasn’t stopped smiling since signing his new deal. Not only did he buy a home in Colorado, but the contract allowed him to continue living up to the promise he made to his father.

“I’ve been speaking things into existence,” Locke said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Broncos reporter Parker Gabriel contributed to this story.

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Renck: Broncos center Alex Forsyth honors his father’s legacy as he pursues starting center job

A week after his father was murdered, Alex Forsyth played a basketball game in his honor.

He was 12 years old.

“I knew that he would want me to,” Forsyth told The Denver Post. “To this day, I am trying to continue his legacy.”

Unless you follow Oregon football, you probably don’t know Alex Forsyth. He was a seventh-round pick by the Broncos in the 2023 draft. He spent last season on the practice squad, receiving unsolicited praise from coach Sean Payton during press conferences for his relentless work ethic.

Forsyth’s anonymity vanished this spring as a candidate to replace departed starting center Lloyd Cushenberry, while becoming a valuable resource in Payton’s pre-draft evaluation of former Ducks teammate Bo Nix.

It feels like Forsyth is on the cusp of doing something special.

“I hope so,” Forsyth, 25, said. “It’s about stacking good days and competing.”

Whether Forsyth reaches the top of the depth chart or not, he has already turned tragedy into triumph. His life changed forever on Dec. 11, 2012.

His father Steve, who coached Alex in sports since kindergarten, was killed in a public mall shooting at Clackamas Town Center in Happy Valley, Ore., 13 miles outside of Portland. Steve was operating a kiosk, waiting to visit with his wife Carla and step-daughter Katie Hughes when a gunman’s random shots ended his life.

Steve was a beacon of light in the West Linn, Ore., community as a general sales manager at Entercom Communications before starting his own firm, Big Feat marketing. Many, though, knew him as a youth coach, where his care and passion for impacting others made an unforgettable impression.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was an incredibly tough time for me and my family. I think you have to roll with the punches. Life is not always fair. I did not want to pity myself. My dad taught me that at a young age. You don’t want to throw a pity party because no one is going to show up except for yourself. He always used to tell me that,” Forsyth said. “He was my coach in pretty much every sport. It was so unfortunate what happened. I had to keep on moving on. My goal is to provide for my mom, my sister and my family. I have just kind of carried that throughout my life.”

Forsyth could have felt more alone than ever. Instead, he leaned on family, friends and, ultimately, football. Steve was athletic, playing college hoops at the University of San Diego. Agile and strong, Alex became an all-state offensive lineman at West Linn High School, leading the team to a 6A state championship when the Lions wore an “SF” decal on their helmets for Steve.

As Forsyth entered his freshman year at Oregon, Alex, Carla and Katie established the Steve Forsyth Memorial Fund, a non-profit that awards up to four need-based, $2,500 scholarships annually to West Linn students. It represents a way to “carry on his spirit of generosity, enthusiasm and trailblazing,” per the website.

Alex, whose passion for the written word was stoked as an advertising major at Oregon, helps read the essays and select the recipients.

“Going through them, you realize a lot of people go through tough times. That’s kind of helped me in my life,” Forsyth said.

Forsyth, like his father, is generous with his time. He is always looking to help others. At Oregon, he volunteered at the Eugene Mission homeless shelter, Food for Lane County and KidSports. In 2022, he was named one of three finalists for the Jason Witten Man of the Year award, recognizing a college football player who demonstrates an outstanding record of leadership by exhibiting exceptional courage, integrity and sportsmanship.

“My dad always put others before himself,” Alex said, “so I just try to emulate that in how I live my life.”

Football is central to Forsyth’s journey. At 6-foot-4, 312 pounds, he brings good size and strength to the center position. Under offensive line boss Zach Strief, he is progressing. Overlooked in college, Strief crafted a 12-year career with the New Orleans Saints.

“I love being coached by coach Strief. Throughout the draft process, I knew I was going to be a later round pick. We were both seventh-rounders,” Forsyth said. “I feel like I have learned a lot from him technique wise, and then obviously he had a great career with the Saints and I am trying to do what he did.”

Football did not come easily for Forsyth, forcing him to live in the playbook. At Oregon, the schemes and the calls started to make sense, allowing him to revel in the hours logged in the shadows.

“He was a great leader,” Nix said of his one college season with Forysth. “He was an unbelievable player for the program.”

Payton makes no secret that he wants tough, smart players. IQ is not a luxury, but rather a necessity in the middle of the line.

“We knew when we drafted him he was extremely intelligent. You could see that in his film,” Payton said. “It’s one of the reasons why I sat down with him to discuss Nix. I knew that he would give a responsible, thoughtful answer.”

As he toiled on the practice squad, Forsyth approached the workouts with purpose. His goal was to get better at two things every day. It usually involved improving his eyes in pass protection, “finding a small target,” and making his hands quicker “because everything happens a lot faster at this level,” he explained.

His determination is paying dividends. He could have become lost in the wash like so many Day 3 picks. Not Forsyth. He remains in the mix to start.

Somewhere Steve is watching and smiling.

“He was a lot like me. I feel like he was a little quieter, but he had a louder personality when he got on the field,” Alex said. “I am nowhere near where I want to be yet but I think the biggest thing is for me to continue excelling at my game to make him proud and make myself proud of my last name.”
Former Broncos OLB Randy Gregory sues NFL, team for discrimination, alleges more than $500,000 in fi

Former Broncos pass-rusher Randy Gregory has filed a lawsuit against the NFL and team claiming discrimination for being fined more than $500,000 in the past year-plus for taking medications for disabilities that include THC.

In the complaint filed in Arapahoe County District Court on Wednesday, a copy of which was obtained by The Denver Post, Gregory claims he was prescribed Dronabinol to help address social anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. While NFL players are no longer suspended for testing positive for THC, it is still a banned substance by the league and positive tests are subject to fine.

Though the Broncos are named in the suit, they do not play a role in the administration of fines to players connected to drug testing. The club complies with the NFL’s protocols on drug testing and enforcement of the rules under the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association.

The Broncos declined comment when contacted by The Post on Thursday evening. The NFL has not returned a request for comment.

“This is a serious effort by Randy to push the NFL forward on alternative methods for pain management options,” Gregory’s agent, Peter Schaffer, told The Post. “If a doctor prescribes hydrocodone, that’s completely legal and much worse for the player, yet the player doesn’t get suspended or fined. Randy’s not trying to buck the system, but he’s paying $500,000 in fines for something that anybody else in the state of Colorado can do. All we want is reasonable accommodation to allow Randy to treat his disabilities at the direction of his treating physician.”

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Spencer Kontik of Kontnik Cohen, claims Gregory requested an accommodation and didn’t receive it from the league.

He first sought permission in March 2023 from the Broncos and NFL to use Dronabinol during non-work hours and was denied.

In May 2023, Schaffer requested a therapeutic use exception and Gregory was again denied.

Gregory, according to the complaint, has been fined $532,500 for repeated positive THC tests since March 2023. The suit does not make clear exactly how many times Gregory was fined or what percentage of those fines came during his time with the Broncos. Players who test positive for THC are first fined a half-week’s salary but the penalty escalates with subsequent positive tests to, eventually, three weeks’ salary.

The suit claims that the league and club’s unwillingness to provide Gregory what it calls reasonable accommodation due to his diagnosed disabilities is discriminatory under Colorado law and Gregory is seeking damages. Gregory was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder in 2021 and post-traumatic stress disorder in February 2023. Gregory was granted a right to sue by the Colorado Civil Rights Division in March after filing discrimination charges against the NFL and the Broncos in July 2023.

Gregory has long been open about his social anxiety. He was also suspended multiple times earlier in his career for repeated violations of the NFL’s drug policy. He was suspended for 14 games of the 2016 season and all of the 2017 and 2019 seasons as a member of the Dallas Cowboys. He was also suspended in 2018 and 2020.

Gregory signed a five-year contract with $28 million guaranteed with the Broncos in March 2022 but ended up playing in only 10 games for the franchise. He missed a wide swath of the 2022 season with a knee injury and then was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in October 2023 after Denver signaled its intent to release the veteran player. He now plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after signing a one-year deal there in April.

Gregory totaled 21 tackles and three sacks in Denver.

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Broncos WR Courtland Sutton confirms plans to attend mandatory minicamp in podcast appearance: “I

Courtland Sutton will be in attendance at Broncos minicamp next week.

The Denver wide receiver, who has not participated in the last month-plus of voluntary workouts, confirmed as much during an appearance Thursday afternoon on the DNVR Broncos podcast.

“I will be there,” Sutton said. “It’s been killing me not to be out there and this has been a very different offseason than I’ve been a part of.”

Indeed it has been. Sutton for the first six years of his NFL career had been a regular at Denver’s voluntary offseason workouts.

Sutton has two years remaining on his contract and only $2 million of the remaining $26.5 million left is guaranteed. Though Sutton hasn’t said so explicitly, that’s clearly the reason he’s stayed away from the team for the opening offseason phases.

“Well it’s not that he doesn’t like our new uniforms,” head coach Sean Payton quipped Tuesday.

Sutton wasn’t asked Thursday about on the state of any contract talks between himself and the Broncos. Payton said Tuesday that “he and I have talked. I think that will work itself out.”

Sutton indicated Thursday that he’d been watching the film of Denver’s OTA practices so far as he’s trained on his own in Florida.

It’s an open question just how involved Sutton will be in the minicamp practices when they begin Tuesday, but if he shows up for all three days he will avoid up to $100,000 in potential fines.

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