ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — With two team executives facing drunken driving charges, the Denver Broncos on Tuesday acknowledged a “disturbing pattern of irresponsible behavior” that they vowed to clean up.
Tom Heckert, the Broncos’ recently hired director of pro personnel, was arrested in Parker on the night of June 11 and charged with driving under the influence and careless driving, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department.
Word of his arrest came just one day after Broncos director of player personnel Matt Russell apologized for his arrest over the weekend on suspicion of driving under the influence.
About an hour after The Associated Press first reported Heckert’s arrest, the Broncos released a statement saying, “We were made aware of the matter involving Tom Heckert immediately after it occurred and promptly notified the league office. His arrest is extremely upsetting, and this situation is being handled internally as well as in coordination with NFL policies.”
“Tom’s actions are obviously part of a disturbing pattern of irresponsible behavior that we are aggressively addressing within our organization,” the statement said. “One member of the Broncos arrested for driving under the influence is one too many. This type of behavior puts innocent people at risk and cannot be tolerated. While our team and league supply plenty of resources to prevent these situations, it is clear we need to do better.
“We are thoroughly reviewing the procedures we have in place and will do whatever it takes to enhance their effectiveness going forward.”
Heckert, who was hired by Broncos Executive Vice President John Elway on May 7, apologized in a statement released by the team.
“I am extremely disappointed that in my short time with the Broncos I have made such a serious mistake. My actions last month have brought embarrassment to the organization, and I fully understand the consequences that are involved. I am truly sorry and take complete responsibility for this situation,” Heckert said. “Although I have let many people down, I will learn from this and work toward regaining the trust that I have lost.”
A pretrial conference is scheduled for Aug. 30 for Heckert. His lawyer, Harvey Steinberg, wasn’t available for comment.
During his two-plus decades in the NFL, Heckert has served as general manager of both the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles.
In his new role with the Broncos, he works closely with Elway and Russell, who faces multiple charges including driving under the influence and careless driving resulting in injury after police said his 2008 Toyota Tundra crashed into a Breckenridge police SUV on Saturday night.
Both Russell, who was hired in 2009 to oversee the Broncos’ college scouting department, and Heckert face possible heavy discipline from the team and the league in addition to any legal consequences.
The NFL’s personal conduct policy applies to front office executives as well as players, and Commissioner Roger Goodell has stated he wants to stiffen the penalties for first-offense drunken driving cases.
Penalties could range from fines to suspensions and even banishment from the NFL.
In 2010, Detroit Lions President Tom Lewand was suspended for a month and fined $100,000 by the league after he pleaded guilty to driving while impaired.
Heckert, who turns 46 on July 17, joined the Broncos after serving as general manager of the Browns for the last three seasons. His responsibilities in Denver include scouting current NFL players and will include overseeing the advance scouting for Broncos opponents.
Heckert is entering his 23rd season in the NFL. He started as a scout for the Miami Dolphins in 1991. Before his three-year stint with the Browns beginning in 2010, Heckert spent nine seasons with Philadelphia, including his final four years (2006-09) as the Eagles’ general manager.
Three of those seasons (2006-08) were spent working with Russell, who was a college scout for the Eagles during that time.
Russell was arrested over the weekend after allegedly hitting two vehicles in Summit County in separate crashes, the second of which injured a Breckenridge police officer, who was treated at a hospital and released.
The executives’ arrests put a blemish on an otherwise stellar offseason by the Broncos, who are considered a Super Bowl favorite after adding Wes Welker, Montee Ball, Louis Vasquez, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Quentin Jammer to a roster that already featured Peyton Manning, Von Miller and Champ Bailey.