ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Denver Broncos coach John Fox gathered his players at midfield last month just before they dispersed for summer vacation and gave them his usual admonition about staying out of trouble.
By all accounts, they have heeded that advice not to embarrass themselves or the organization. But Executive Vice President John Elway’s top two assistants haven’t.
“Just make good decisions, be smart,” Fox said that hot June 13 afternoon, a mantra heard across the league as players scattered for some R&R following months of offseason workouts.
One day before, the Broncos brass had learned that Tom Heckert, the former Cleveland Browns general manager, had been charged with drunken driving in nearby Parker just a month after being hired as Denver’s director of pro personnel.
The Broncos kept Heckert’s June 11 arrest quiet until The Associated Press reported it Tuesday, a day after Broncos director of player personnel Matt Russell, Elway’s right-hand man, apologized for his arrest over the weekend on suspicion of driving under the influence stemming from his crash into a police SUV.
The revelation of a second Broncos executive facing DUI charges led the organization to acknowledge a “disturbing pattern of irresponsible behavior” that it vowed to clean up.
Neither Heckert, 45, nor Russell, 40, are expected to be fired, but team President Joe Ellis promised severe penalties separate from any legal consequences.
The executives’ arrests come at a time when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell favors stiffer penalties for first-time drunken drivers and the league has strengthened its ties to MADD — Mothers Against Drunk Driving — which participated in the latest NFL rookie symposium.
Restoring respectability won’t come quickly or easily, Ellis said.
“We’re not perfect. We’ve made our errors. We admit. You can say we apologized for it — but I think an apology rings hollow when you run into the back of a police car or you’re blowing a blood alcohol limit that’s three times the legal limit. I don’t think fans, I don’t think the public, I don’t think anybody wants to hear an apology,” Ellis told the AP.
AP Source: Smith won’t attend Sanchez’s Jets camp
In New York, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith will not attend Mark Sanchez’s camp for teammates in Southern California this week.
Sanchez has organized the informal workouts and team-bonding camps, dubbed “Jets West,” each of the last few summers.
It’s not certain if Sanchez officially invited Smith, the team’s second-round pick competing with Sanchez for the starting job, but Smith will not participate in the workouts that started Thursday, the person told the AP.
The Daily News reports that Smith, who had said during minicamp in June that he would likely attend if invited by Sanchez, is working out on his own in Florida.