Broncos Suspend Russell, Heckert After DUIs; NFL Won't Add Further Discipline
The Broncos yesterday suspended Player Personnel Dir Matt Russell "indefinitely without pay," and disciplined Pro Personnel Dir Tom Heckert "with a one-month suspension without pay" after DUI charges were brought against both men earlier this month, according to Mike Klis of the DENVER POST. The NFL was "satisfied with the way the Broncos handled the arrests, informing the team it would not bring further discipline" against the execs. Broncos President Joe Ellis and Exec VP/Football Operations John Elway "cut short their offseason downtime" to gather at the team's Dove Valley HQs yesterday, while team Owner Pat Bowlen was "involved in discussions by phone." Russell and Heckert will "receive treatment during their time away from the team." Ellis said, "There will be some form of counseling and education and rehabilitation involved here. Both Tom and Matt are accepting of that." Klis notes a one-month suspension would "take Heckert's absence through Aug. 14, which is a couple days before the Broncos' second preseason game" against the Seahawks. Russell will be gone "significantly longer." Ellis said, "When Matt returns will basically be up to Matt. But the suspension will not be days or weeks. It will be months." Elway said of filling the suspended execs' roles in the meantime, "Everyone else will have to do a little more. I'm going to talk to some people outside to see if they can come in and help us. Obviously, when you're missing those guys for a period of time we'll have to pick up the slack" (DENVER POST, 7/16).
HURTS ME TOO: ESPN's Ed Werder noted the suspensions of Heckert and Russell will “hurt the Broncos in terms of evaluating their players through camps as they make cuts and compose their final roster.” ESPN’s Billy Devaney said it was "great" the way Ellis came out "right away and was proactive talking about how they were not going to condone this and it was going to be more than just a slap on the wrist.” Devaney said it was important to note Broncos coach John Fox “was not mentioned” in who was involved in the suspension, as the “football part is kind of separated from the front office part in this situation” ("NFL Live," ESPN, 7/15).
CRIME & PUNISHMENT: CBSSPORTS.com's Jason La Canfora reported NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "let the Broncos, which consulted with the league, dole out the punishments." But there "have been whispers about what some other execs have termed 'a frat-house culture' in the Broncos front office." Elway, whose "transparency and candor was so refreshing when he launched on to the management scene on Twitter and elsewhere, should have taken to his account, or some public forum, upon Heckert's arrest." These "blights are on his hands and on his watch." The Broncos "sent a fairly strong message" with the punishments. But they did not "break new ground in what the commissioner doled out in the past and it remains to be seen if both are back by, say the middle of the preseason, which could be the case" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/15).