USA American Football
SPARTANBURG, S.C. — A year ago, Christian McCaffrey said he would choose himself if he had the top pick in a fantasy football draft. That move wouldn’t have worked out too well.
McCaffrey missed 13 games with injuries in 2020, but his confidence level hasn’t changed entering this season.
“I think the same way,” McCaffrey said Wednesday.
The 25-year-old McCaffrey appears to be healthy and back to full speed.
On the team’s first day of training camp at Wofford College, McCaffrey took a pass from new quarterback Sam Darnold over the middle, made a smooth cut and exploded into a full sprint toward the end zone.
It’s the type of explosive play the Panthers missed from the running back position last year.
“We’re anxious to get Christian out there (because) he’s a difference maker,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said. “In the National Football League you only get so many difference makers and he’s our difference maker.”
McCaffrey said he feels “awesome” and is eager for the season to arrive.
“I’m just so fired up to play football again,” said McCaffrey, the top-ranked running back in Madden NFL 22 ahead of Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara.
In 2019 McCaffrey earned All-Pro honors — and a four-year, $64 million contract extension — after becoming the third player in history to record 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.
The Panthers’ investment appeared to pay early dividends as McCaffrey racked up 223 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns in his first seven quarters last season.
But then came the injuries.
A high ankle sprain in the fourth quarter of a Week 2 loss to Tampa Bay landed McCaffrey on injured reserve. He returned on Nov. 8 against the Kansas City Chiefs only to separate his shoulder. McCaffrey was hoping to return for the final few games of the season but developed a thigh problem, essentially ending his season.
McCaffrey made only minor changes to his offseason workout regimen, saying he didn’t want to overreact. He hadn’t missed a game in his first three seasons, during which he had 5,443 yards from scrimmage and 39 touchdowns.
“It’s really just staying true to who I am,” McCaffrey said. “I’ve had success and I felt good with the past plan and training the way I train. … Injuries happen in football and I’m so past that.”
When McCaffrey is on the field, the Panthers are a different team.
His ability to run between the tackles and break off big plays as a receiver — he caught 303 passes in his first three seasons — draws significant attention from defenders, which in turn takes pressure off wide receivers D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson.
“It’s a lot different with him because if he’s not the best back, then one of the best backs in the league,” Anderson said. “You get a lot more coverages that are more pass-friendly for me and D.J. when he’s on the field. He’s another threat as a playmaker.”
Rhule said having McCaffrey in the lineup also means the Panthers don’t have to substitute as much at running back, which keeps defenses from picking up “tips” from the Carolina offense.
“You’re not having to substitute and put this guy in for this play, or put this guy in for that one,” Rhule said. “There’s really nothing that Christian can’t do.”
The Panthers signed wide receiver Krishawn Hogan after he tried out for the team following Wednesday’s practice. The 6-foot-3, 217-pounder has spent time with the Cardinals, Colts, Saints and Titans. He has played in 10 NFL games with one catch for 4 yards.
The Panthers typically draw thousands of fans for their first day of training camp, but only a few hundred attended on Wednesday. Players aren’t signing autographs after practice this year in a pandemic-related precaution.
Angela Sanchez, 49, woke her sleeping 14-year-old son, Apollonio, out of bed at 7 a.m. Wednesday. At first Apollonio complained, saying “It’s summertime, Mom.”
But then she told him they were making the hour-long drive from Westminster to the Broncos facility.
“He got out of bed very willingly after that,” Sanchez said. Apollonio threw on his orange Von Miller Broncos jersey and headed to training camp for the fourth year.
The Sanchez’s were two of the 874 fans that came to the UCHealth Training Center to witness the return of Broncos football this season for the first time fans were allowed at camp since 2019 due to COVID-19.
Two years ago, 1,257 fans showed up on the first day of training camp that included player-fan interactions, autograph signings and photo opportunities. This year, there are no player interactions with the fans due to COVID-19 protocols.
With no autographs and a non-padded practice, the scattered sea of orange and blue wasn’t close to filling the facility’s grassy hillside. Many fans headed toward the exits before practice ended shortly after noon on a stifling hot morning.
Broncos’ linebacker Von Miller began the morning starting a slow clap for the fans to redeem a little bit of the fan interaction this time, but a slow clap is all fans would get.
“We are a little bummed with no autographs this year,” Angela said. “My stepfather was really ill the last time we came and he had a Super Bowl commemorative football that he had won. We got probably seven signatures from different players and we were able to bring that to him before he passed, so it’s sad we don’t get to do that this year.”
The two are looking forward to “finding answers” on who Denver’s starting quarterback will be: Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater.
“I think that’s what the question is here today, it’s the unknown, and something everyone here will be keeping an eye on,” Sanchez said.
Rob Jacoby, a retiree from Perry Park, was a first-time attendee along with his grandson, Wesson, 6. The Nebraska native and Broncos fan at heart thinks the team needs to improve on consistency and development before they can be back to where they were in 2015, a Super Bowl winning season.
“I’m a patient fan,” Jacoby said.
For other fans, they were just happy to see live football action again, even if they had no chance to meet their favorite player.
Ashley Cook, a paralegal from Bend, Oregon, and her son Drake, 4, were in town visiting her sister in Colorado Springs for the week and jumped at the opportunity to attend their first training camp.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect when we came here,” Cook said. “But it’s been really neat watching all the players, the different positions, how they end up breaking into their different sections and showing my son what professional football is like.”
Broncos “superfan” Jesse Torres, a Social Security worker from Elizabeth, proudly sported his Broncos-inspired grim reaper costume in 98-degree weather for his 20th year at training camp.
An annual event for him and his family, Torres questioned the lack of turnout from Broncos Nation on the first day.
“Where you at?” Torres said. “If you’re not here, we need you here. We need people to come out, fill this area, show our support, show how blessed we are to have the Broncos in our state and to the players that we support them.”
A dip in attendance was clear, but coach Vic Fangio was happy to have fans back.
“It’s great,” Fangio said. “We love to have them back. Our fans are great.”
Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater? Broncos open training camp with two quarterbacks motivated to win jo
Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater? The Broncos began their pursuit of the answer to that question Wednesday morning as the team’s quarterback competition officially began on Day 1 of training camp.
Lock, still trying to prove himself after throwing a league-high 15 interceptions last year, took the first snap. But from there, it was nearly equal reps between him and newcomer Teddy Bridgewater.
The incumbent knows what’s at stake for himself and the franchise overall as the Broncos, buoyed by what’s expected to be a strong defense, desperately need a QB capable of breaking a five-year playoff drought.
“That’s what we’re out here to do — it’s competition 24/7,” Lock said. “Whether it’s the meeting room, how fast we eat our food at the lunch table. I’m surprised (our arrival times at the facility) aren’t out there yet, either. I suppose if I was a fan, that’s what would make it fun. But when you’re within these walls… it’s all about us getting better every day.
“Anytime I break this team down, we’re going to break down on ‘win,’ because we have to just talk about it, be about it, live it (all the time). That’s what we want and that’s what this team deserves.”
Lock said his competition with Bridgewater is “motivating.”
This offseason, that apparently meant adding some bulk to his 6-foot-4 frame, as the third-year pro checked into camp at a toned 230 pounds, about 12 pounds heavier than his playing weight last year.
“For a lack of a better term, I feel like I’m not going through puberty anymore,” Lock joked. “I’m getting some grown-man strength and it feels nice.”
In addition to the extra muscle, Lock said reflecting on last year’s failures, when he went 4-9 as a starter, has made him a better quarterback.
“I feel like I’m a smarter player now,” Lock said. “The chances I do take are more calculated chances, rather than when I was a rookie or in my second year. When I press the ball, I have confidence it’s going to be a safer call… The gunslinger mentality can still be there, but it’s got to be a calculated gunslinger rather than just a sprayer.”
Bridgewater, meanwhile, has a “survivor” mindset in his fourth NFL stop. Bridgewater, Minnesota’s first-round pick in 2014, says his goal every day in his first training camp at UCHealth Training Center is to “take the approach like it’s my first time learning, and that way, I’m never feeling like I know too much.”
The 28-year-old veteran, who was 4-11 in 15 starts for Carolina last year, is confident in his ability to keep adapting to offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s system over the next few weeks.
“You can throw me in the jungle, and I’m going to come out with a fur coat and a headband made of some leaves,” Bridgewater said. “It’s about surviving (in my career) at this point, and ever day I have a fire that is lit.”
Coach Vic Fangio, who said Monday that Lock and Bridgewater would probably each get one preseason start, assessed that both quarterbacks “did well” on the opening day of camp.
Did not practice: Active/PUP — CB Duke Dawson (knee), CB Essang Bassey (knee) and OLB Baron Browning (leg).
QB Drew Lock threw a 35-yard touchdown to WR Trinity Benson in 11-on-11 work after Benson ran down the left seam to beat CB Parnell Motley.
WR Trinity Benson. The Broncos’ receiver depth chart is loaded, but Benson made a good first-day impression. In addition to Lock’s touchdown, Benson finished practice with a touchdown catch from QB Brett Rypien.
RB Mike Boone. Signed in free agency from Minnesota to be a reserve tailback/special teams core player, Boone looked comfortable hitting the gap with speed.
Dime package. Six-defensive back personnel should be the Broncos’ Plan A sub package. It included cornerbacks Ronald Darby, Kyle Fuller, Bryce Callahan and Pat Surtain II and safeties Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson.
Pass break-ups. The secondary wasn’t around the football all that much — the only pass break-up in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 was by rookie CB Mac McCain III.
No autographs. The NFL is prohibiting training camp autographs because of coronavirus concerns. That likely limited the announced attendance of 874. In 2019, the first day drew 1,257.
Odds and ends
*The Broncos wore helmets (no pads) on Wednesday as dictated by the collective bargaining agreement. The first three days are the “ramp up period,” followed by two practices in shells and helmets and then full pads are allowed.
*OLB Derrek Tuszka was the first player out for practice. CB Kyle Fuller was also an early arrival and went through an extensive jogging warm-up before the team stretch.
*As indicated by coach Vic Fangio on Tuesday, QB Drew Lock took the initial set of first-team reps in 11-on-11. Lock and Bridgewater combined for 34 snaps in 11-on-11 and Brett Rypien had 13.
*11-on-11 highlights: Bridgewater overthrew WR Tyrie Cleveland on a deep post route. Cleveland, who got a step on CB Pat Surtain II, was able to get one hand on the pass. … Rypien found WR KJ Hamler on a deep over route against Motley. … OLB Von Miller jumped off-side to start the third period. … Bridgewater’s final pass was a leaping catch by Hamler. … Benson finished his big day with a touchdown catch from Rypien on a deep post.
*7-on-7 highlights: WR Jerry Jeudy made a leaping, two-handed catch from Bridgewater. … CB Mac McCain III broke up a Rypien pass on the sideline, which was the only incompletion during the period.
*On the field but doing limited work included OLB Bradley Chubb (ankle), WR Courtland Sutton (knee) and TE Albert Okwuegbunam (knee). Of Chubb, Fangio said it will “probably be another couple days before we cut him loose. We want to get him in shape because he wasn’t able to do much for a good bit of May and a good bit of June.” Fangio said Okwuegbunam is “doing great,” in his recovery.
*Calvin Anderson got the first shot at right tackle, semi-surprising after the Broncos signed veterans Bobby Massie and Cam Fleming after Ja’Wuan James’ Achilles injury and subsequent release. “He’s a good athlete, he plays hard, he plays tough and I just like the way he plays,” Fangio said of Anderson. “He got a couple of games in last year and I think he is a viable candidate for that job, I really do.”
*Fangio said the first team right tackle will be “something different” each practice, meaning Massie and Fleming will get their chances, too. Anderson spent part of the offseason training with left tackle Garett Bolles in California. “It made us as friends a lot closer and it’s hard to find a genuine friend in football because everybody is competing,” Anderson said. “He’s literally like a brother. We’ve developed a really close relationship.”
*Of getting the first-team right tackle work on Day 1, Anderson said: “I’m happy with every opportunity I get. I had a really good offseason training with Garret. … This game is about proving your worth on the field and what you do between the lines. It’s time to show everybody I’m ready.”
*C Lloyd Cushenberry took all of the first-team snaps and Fangio stopped short of calling the center position a battle against rookie Quinn Meinerz. “I think Meinerz first has to show it has to be a competition,” said Fangio, who added that Meinerz will also work at guard in camp.
*Newly-signed Brett Jones will work at center and guard. “He’s a solid guy, very smart — he’ll pick things up fast and has the ability to play guard and center and that was appealing to us,” Fangio said.
*Several offensive linemen, including Bolles, came out to practice with a padded helmet covering. “It’s supposed to be another layer of protection that teams have experimented with in practice,” Fangio said. “It’s been more prevalent in college football than the NFL. We made it available to the players — it’s their choice. Some of them came out with it and took it off early. It’s a little bigger than I thought it would be when I saw the video and pictures.”
*General manager George Paton will be an up-close practice observer. He monitored every team session from just outside the numbers on the field.
9:15 a.m. and open to fans. Gates open at 8:30 a.m.
Mr. B has been dead and gone for two years now, and the way the Broncos were are misty, watercolor memories that aren’t coming back.
The NFL is no longer a mom-and-pop business. So when the Broncos look to the future, searching for a new owner, let’s hope the team doesn’t get mired in sentimentality for the past.
While it would be cool if Brittany Bowlen moved into her late father’s office and took over operation of the Broncos, what’s probably best for this team and a town that adores it so much? New money. New ideas. New direction.
Sell the Broncos to Amazon mogul Jeff Bezos. Please.
As a team that has failed to make the NFL playoffs for five long years reconvenes for training camp, CEO Joe Ellis knows the Broncos simply cannot go on this way. The losing on the field must end, as well as hang-wringing over ownership.
Denver is not going to win the Super Bowl this season, regardless of whether Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater is the starting quarterback. The only real intrigue will be if the team can play well enough for coach Vic Fangio to retain his job. While frustrating to admit, it feels as if the Broncos are marking time, waiting for big changes in 2022, when the NFL has mandated a transition of power to a new proprietor of our civic treasure.
The bickering between the Bowlen kids has mercifully reached a ceasefire instead of escalating into an an all-out war in the courtroom. But it’s hard to conceive how Brittany can cobble together unanimous support from her siblings and take over day-to-day operation of a business that’s been in the family since her late father Pat bought the team for $71 million way back in 1984.
The Broncos have grown too big for the Bowlen family. There are at least five billion reasons that it makes sense to sell them to Bezos, the business magnate and astronaut wannabe who was born in Albuquerque, on the outskirts of Broncos Country, in 1964.
Here’s guessing Bezos would gladly pay $5 billion to add the Broncos to a portfolio that includes everything from an old-school newspaper to cutting-edge spacecraft.
While Ellis emphasized this week that the Broncos are currently not for sale, it would be the hottest property in Denver’s sizzling real estate market. Here’s betting the team would be gobbled up within two weeks after team trustees gave up on their dream of Brittany running the operation and opened the bidding process.
Selling the team to Bezos would be good for the Broncos and everybody who loves them. After divvying up a check for $5 billion, the bickering Bowlen kids could all buy private islands in the sun and go their separate ways. Raising the country-club fees for members of the NFL ownership fraternity to record heights would make everybody from Jerry Jones to Robert Kraft grin from ear to ear.
But, most important is how Bezos, the richest man who ever lived, could radically transform the team and the town.
While Bezos probably can’t deliver quarterback Aaron Rodgers to Colorado in two days via Amazon Prime, we would never have to hear him cry poverty, the way Rockies owner Dick Monfort constantly does at 20th and Blake. Any football player or coach contemplating a possible move to Denver would be attracted by ownership with unlimited resources.
The football stadium Bowlen coerced taxpayers to build him opened in 2001, and has quickly aged in an era when sports facilities have become the centerpiece for entertainment districts and urban renewal. Want a dome that could attract a Super Bowl or Final Four to Colorado? Bezos could get that done as soon as he put his mind to it.
The next owner of the Broncos?
Sorry, Brittany. Times change. And it’s time for the Bowlen family to get out of the football business.
This is a decision that has to be made on the basis of big dollars and common sense.
Sell the team to Bezos. ASAP.
Deshaun Watson was on the field for the start of training camp with the Houston Texans on Wednesday.
The future of the quarterback is uncertain after he asked for a trade in January before 22 women filed lawsuits alleging that he sexually assaulted or harassed them in March. Houston police and the NFL are investigating the allegations, but no charges have been filed.
Watson still wishes to be traded and reported to training camp solely to avoid being fined. He would have faced fines of $50,000 a day if he didn’t report.
Watson wore his red No. 4 jersey over a gray hoodie with sweatpants as he went through individual drills with the rest of the quarterbacks as practice began on Wednesday. He chatted with teammates and coaches during breaks in the action.
General manager Nick Caserio spoke before practice and was evasive when questioned about Watson’s status with the team.
“It’s a day-to-day endeavor,” Caserio said. “We’re going to take the information. We’re going to process that. We’re respectful of everybody and everything that’s involved. So we’ll kind of take it one day at a time. And ultimately we’re going to do what we feel is best for Houston Texans.”
Caserio also insisted that Watson was not a distraction to the team.
The NFL released a statement regarding Watson on Tuesday that although its “review of the serious allegations against Deshaun Watson remains ongoing and active,” there were no restrictions on his participation in team activities.
Watson led the NFL in yards passing last season and signed a four-year, $156 million contract extension with the Texans last offseason. But he became unhappy with the direction of the team and requested a trade in January after the Texans, who won the AFC South in 2018 and ’19, sank to 4-12 last season.
Caserio signed veteran Tyrod Taylor to a one-year deal in March to give the team an insurance policy at quarterback if Watson can’t or won’t play this season. The Texans selected Stanford’s Davis Mills in the third round of this year’s draft, and he and Jeff Driskel, a recent free agent signee, will likely compete to back up Taylor if Watson isn’t an option.
Be boring. If you want to emulate a Smith, Drew Lock, that’s groovy. Try a little more Alex and a little less Geno this time.
“I honestly feel like I could play quarterback for the Denver Broncos this year,” linebacker Von Miller said Tuesday. “We’ve got too many options.”
Be smart. Let the skill guys do the heavy lifting. We know you’ve got a cannon, brother. We’re just weary of having to cover our eyes every time you light the fuse.
Jerry Jeudy’s job is to blow people’s minds. Your job is to get the rock in his mitts and get out of the heck out of the way.
Because the safest hands are going to be the ones that coach Vic Fangio ultimately trusts with the keys. The Broncos have two Pro Bowl pass-rushers and a half-dozen defensive backs who can ball. Punt to win, baby.
“We’ve got more weapons than we’ve had in a long time,” Miller continued. “I can go out there and lead that offense … I can go out there and play quarterback and throw it to Jerry Jeudy … We’ve got all types of weapons out there.”
Find them. Because if you can’t, Teddy Bridgewater sure as heck will.
Be savvy. Check down. Move the chains. Shock the world. Prove us wrong. Make the doubters eat their words like so many sopapillas. Crow with a side of honey.
VegasInsider.com pegs the Broncos’ over-under on wins this fall at 7.5, same as the Raiders and Panthers. FanDuel set it at 8.5 victories. PointsBet, same deal.
On one hand, it’s a low bar to clear.
On the other, reality bites.
Training camp opens Wednesday, and Aaron Rodgers ain’t walking through that door. Not this summer, anyway.
“We have our pulse on every situation, especially if it’s a player we covet,” Broncos general manager George Paton said of the Packers quarterback. “But in regards to Rodgers specifically, he’s with another team, and I can’t comment any further.”
And if the recent headlines involving Deshaun Watson make you more than a little wary, well, you’re not alone.
“I can’t comment on a player under contract with another team,” Broncos president/CEO Joe Ellis said of the embattled Texans quarterback. “That really isn’t a consideration on the table right now.”
So we’re right back to where we were two months ago. Teddy vs. Drew. Drew vs. Teddy. May the prudent man win.
“(We’re) very confident in both quarterbacks,” Paton said.
“I think you can win with both those guys,” Miller said.
Fangio is 12-20 over his first two seasons at Dove Valley. He’s 7-9 at home. He’s 0-7 in September. The Broncos’ first three tilts are at the Giants (6-10 in 2020), at the Jaguars (1-15) and a home tussle with the Jets (2-14).
You might have time to wait around for Lock’s corner to turn. Uncle Vic doesn’t.
“We want to be relevant in November and December,” Paton said. “We want to make a push for the playoffs.”
You can push with Lock and Bridgewater. It’s when their heads start scraping the ceiling at nine or 10 wins — and 10-7 doesn’t promise a thing — that things get dicey.
Is that good enough? The only thing looming with any certainty at Dove Valley for 2022 is change.
Ellis stressed again on Tuesday that he doesn’t expect to be in the CEO’s chair by the start of the next training camp. The Broncos are either going to be sold or transitioned into Brittany Bowlen’s purview, and the smart money is still on the former.
Bridgewater, Miller, Kyle Fuller, Melvin Gordon, Bryce Callahan, Kareem Jackson, Tim Patrick, A.J. Johnson and Courtland Sutton are all in the final year of their respective contracts.
Rodgers is a solid bet to hit the open market after this season. Watson’s legal situation will likely have more clarity, for better or for worse, by next spring. Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler and North Carolina signal-caller Sam Howell are expected to jump into the draft pool.
You want to talk options? That’s the one thing that, in a few months, the Broncos will have plenty of. Especially at quarterback.
“We’ve got to win. We just have to win,” Ellis said. “It’s kind of, ‘Enough already’ for me, personally, watching it.”
Join the club, pal. Join the club.
The Broncos aren’t for sale … yet.
During his annual training camp opening day news conference Tuesday, president/CEO Joe Ellis said the club will provide long-awaited clarity on its future once the season is complete.
“Our goal is to be able to lay out, when the season is over, for everybody a timeline for transition of ownership that will take place next year, prior to the start of the season,” he said. “That’s important. It’s important to the organization. It’s important to the beneficiaries to get it resolved and we’re moving forward on that.”
The lawsuit filed in September 2019 by Amie Klemmer and Beth Bowlen Wallace, the two oldest children of late Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, saying their father lacked capacity to sign his estate-planning documents and was unduly influenced by the trustees, was dismissed at their request July 14. It kept the power of controlling a potential sale in the hands of Ellis and fellow Patrick D. Bowlen Trustees (Rich Slivka/Mary Kelly).
Although complimentary of the work Brittany Bowlen has done since rejoining the Broncos in December 2019, Ellis reiterated family “agreement” is necessary for her to succeed her father as owner. In that sense, what Ellis said hasn’t changed much since December 2019 — sibling support is necessary.
“The team is not for sale,” Ellis said. “Our goal is to focus on having a good year, hopefully be competitive and be around for the postseason tournament once that begins.”
NFL “fine” with plan
The NFL has mandated Ellis and Co. select a new sole trustee by next March or face millions in potential fines. The league is unlikely to grant an extension because it would set a precedent for other clubs to potentially follow.
“I don’t think (Brittany Bowlen) being the sole trustee is realistic — that’s just a fact,” Ellis said.
The sole trustee is usually the controlling owner. If the Broncos go up for sale in mid-January, one league source said the process could take only “days” depending on the bidders and if there is competition.
Ellis’ contract expires in March, but said he will “see through, whoever the next controlling owner is, a transition to a new CEO, which is maybe the owner, and a new president and I will be out.”
Ellis has traveled to New York “several times” to meet with Commissioner Roger Goodell about the Broncos’ future and they also met in Maine last week.
“I laid out the plan for him,” Ellis said. “They’re fine with it.”
Ellis has also talked with members of the league’s Finance Committee, including chairman/Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt. The committee serves as a gate-house of sorts for potential new owners and then presents the candidate to the rest of the owners for approval.
The undeclared Plan A for the trustees since they debunked Wallace’s candidacy in June 2018 has been to pave the way for Brittany Bowlen to become the controlling owner. She is currently the Broncos’ senior vice president of strategy.
“If Brittany is going to move forward, there will have to be an agreement among the family members that she can do that,” Ellis said. “There still needs to be, in some form, consent from every family member for that to happen and that can come in different ways.”
Klemmer and Wallace agreeing to let Brittany Bowlen succeed their father in charge of the Broncos is improbable.
From a financial perspective, selling is the best option for the seven Bowlen children who are beneficiaries because of tax implications. If the team is sold in March (or earlier in 2022), none of the children would receive proceeds until Annabelle Bowlen, Pat’s widow, passes away. At that point, Klemmer and Wallace, because they’re older than 40, would begin to receive payments, but a trustee would be appointed to supervise the five youngest kids until they reach age 40.
There will be plenty of money to go around. The Broncos’ sale price could approach $5 billion due to the influx of legal sports gambling in Colorado, the NFL and nationwide. League rules allow for potential owners to borrow only $500 million of a sale price so a multi-billionaire would be the preferred buyer. According to Forbes last year, 18 individuals in the United States are worth at least $30 billion, including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (No. 1, $179 billion).
A part of any deep-pocketed owner coming aboard would be the possibility to build a new stadium; Empower Field at Mile High opened in September 2001 and the Broncos’ lease runs until 2031.
After his news conference, Ellis told The Post that if a new owner wants to build a new stadium, his recommendation would be to have a downtown location to take advantage of the “energy” of the community.
One trial left
Ellis declined comment on the dismissal of the lawsuit filed by Klemmer/Wallace “for some confidentiality reasons,” but added the NFL was not involved in bringing the trustees and Klemmer/Wallace together for a potential settlement.
“The NFL wasn’t a party to this — this was between some of the beneficiaries and the trustees,” he said.
Next up for the trustees is a Sept. 22 trial date in Denver concerning a right-of-first-refusal claim by the estate of former Broncos owner Edgar Kaiser.
When Kaiser sold 60.8% of the Broncos to Pat Bowlen in 1984, a right of first refusal was included in the agreement, which is common in sales when the sides have no acrimony. A year later, Bowlen bought the remaining 39.2% from John Adams and Tim Borden for $20 million. in 1998, the court said the right of first refusal only applied to the 60.8% ownership interest that Bowlen bought from Kaiser.
Bowlen’s win, though, did not totally eliminate the right of first refusal, which gave Kaiser 14 days to decide whether to buy the team if Bowlen found a buyer.
It is important for the trustees to win the case even if the Kaiser estate doesn’t have the finances to buy the available 60.8% of the club.
If the Kaiser side prevails, it gives them the power to approach a potential new Broncos owner and offer up the right-of-first-refusal component for a fee.
Ellis is beginning his 27th and final season with the Broncos and his 11th as president and eighth as CEO. He has experienced the highs of being on the podium to hold up the Super Bowl 50 trophy and the lows of the current five-year playoff drought.
“We’ve got to win,” he said. “We just have to win. It’s kind of enough already for me personally, just watching it. I’ve been here for a lot of years when we had some success and to have it carry on in the other direction for as long as it has, it’s tough for everybody. I just want to see us turn the corner and be successful.”
Broncos Briefs: Team to be conservative in training camp with Von Miller, Bradley Chubb and Courtlan
Heading into the start of training camp on Wednesday, the Broncos are confident three of their headliners are on track to be ready for the season opener Sept. 12.
But that doesn’t mean wideout Courtland Sutton (ACL injury last year) plus outside linebackers Von Miller (ankle surgery last year) and Bradley Chubb (offseason ankle surgery) will be full-go in camp. Coach Vic Fangio said the team will be conservative with all three players.
“Von’s ready to go, but we’re going to manage him just because of his age (32),” Fangio said. “I’ll occasionally give him a day or two off here or there.”
While Miller missed all of 2020 with an ankle injury suffered in the week before the season opener, Chubb missed the final two games before undergoing ankle cleanup surgery in May. That caused Chubb to miss all of the Broncos’ offseason workouts.
“Bradley, coming off his injury, he’s not in great shape yet because he missed a lot of workout time in the offseason,” Fangio said. “His (limit) will be shorter starting out, just because of the conditioning standpoint.”
Meanwhile, Sutton — who racked up 1,112 yards receiving during a Pro Bowl year in 2019 — suffered an ACL tear in the first game he played last year while making a tackle on an interception. The Broncos are counting on Sutton to return to form in 2021.
“Courtland’s really ready to go, but we’re going to monitor him,” Fangio said. “He’s had a tremendous rehab, but we’re going to manage (his reps).”
On another injury note, general manager George Paton said rookie inside linebacker Barron Browning “should be ready to practice within the week.” Browning, Denver’s third-round pick at No. 105 overall this year, is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. He suffered a lower-leg injury early in the offseason and did not practice during OTAs or minicamp.
Broncos’ vaccination status. Paton said that as of Tuesday, over 85% of the Broncos players are vaccinated, while the staff has reached the 100% mark.
Breaking that 85% threshold entering training camp means the Broncos will have relaxed COVID testing and protocols within their building, per the NFL’s mandate.
“There was a lot of education, a lot of discussion, a lot of communication (with the players),” Paton said. “We’re one of the higher (vaccinated) teams in the league, and I think it’s going to help us.”
Miller on fans. As fans return to the UC Health Training Center for the first time in two years, Miller said the crowd’s energy will be welcomed by players.
“I’m excited for the fans to get here,” Miller said. “I actually had a dream the other day that I was running out from the facility, and I did a little clap (over my head) like I always do.”
Wednesday is the first of 12 practices that are free and open to the public.
Roster moves. The Broncos made three transactions Wednesday, waiving center Patrick Morris and signing center Brett Jones and safety Tedric Thompson. Paton has a history with Jones, who played the last three years for Minnesota (31 games/five starts).
Thompson, who played at Colorado, spent three years with Seattle and last season with Kansas City. He has 16 starts among his 37 NFL games.