SBD/July 10, 2013/Franchises

Heckert's Recent Arrest Comes To Light As Broncos Grapple With Spate Of DUIs

Heckert came over to the Broncos from the Browns this past May
The Broncos are facing the "humiliation of having its top two assistants to football operations boss John Elway arrested on drunken driving charges," according to a front-page piece by Legwold & Parker of the DENVER POST. It was made public this week that Broncos Pro Personnel Dir Tom Heckert was arrested for DUI on June 11. That comes along with Player Personnel Dir Matt Russell being charged for the same violation on Saturday. The Broncos have "long placed a premium on projecting a positive image." Team President Joe Ellis said, "It's embarrassing for us as a franchise, it's embarrassing for [team Owner Pat] Bowlen, it's especially embarrassing for our fans. We don't tolerate it, and we're not going to. My expectation is the discipline will be severe." Ellis added, "One episode is one too many. Two is ridiculous. I understand the outrage in the community, I understand the outrage of the fans. It's justified. We have an obligation to do the right thing. And we will." Legwold & Parker report Russell and Heckert "not only face punishment from the legal system but also by the Broncos and the NFL in terms of suspensions and fines." A rehab program also is "likely to be mandated." While the Broncos "appear to be more inclined to help Russell and Heckert get counseling rather than firing them, the repercussions are expected to be harsh, by the team and perhaps the NFL." Their arrests "fall under the league's personal conduct policy, so both could be fined and suspended, no matter the outcome in their coming court appearances." Heckert's first court date was Monday, the "same day the Broncos were forced to release statements on Russell's arrest." Russell will have his next court appearance "in Summit County on Aug. 21" (DENVER POST, 7/10).

SOMETHING NEEDS TO HAPPEN: In Denver, Mark Kiszla writes the Broncos “have a drinking problem," and the “sobering truth is: The Broncos must do something more than say they're sorry." Suspending Russell "without pay for at least three months while the top aide to John Elway deals with the legal fallout seems within reason"  (DENVER POST, 7/10). KCKK-AM's Peter Burns noted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is "all about protecting the NFL shield," and if he is going to "suspend players for acting like a knucklehead, then you've got to fine and suspend a front office executive as well." Burns: "I don’t put a front office executive above a player because everybody's an adult here." Kiszla noted the league "wants to get past DUIs," but players typically "don't get suspended nearly as bad as what probably will happen with Russell." Kiszla said, "That's the power of the players' association and the deal of the collective bargaining agreement. If they wanted to end this, they could end it a lot quicker. But they use it as bargaining chip" ("The Press Box," DENVERPOST.com, 7/9).
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