Around The NFL Writer
At 3-8, the 2022 Denver Broncos have been nothing short of a massive disappointment.
Denver’s offseason acquisition of Russell Wilson has fallen flat, and rookie coach Nathaniel Hackett has attracted plenty of criticism. Denver’s performance has warranted the backlash, but it appears as if most internal discord isn’t centered on Hackett — it’s on Wilson.
Wilson has lost the confidence and support of some of the Broncos locker room, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday. Pelissero’s report follows a jarring scene near Denver’s sideline Sunday in which defensive tackle Mike Purcell was seen shouting at Wilson out of apparent frustration during the Broncos’ 23-10 loss to the Panthers.
After the game, the defensive tackle explained the cause was precisely that. Wilson told reporters the two don’t harbor any animosity toward each other, but days later, the quarterback was forced to answer questions regarding his standing in the eyes of his still-new teammates.
“First of all, everybody wants to win,” Wilson said Wednesday. “We all want to win. Nobody wants to win more than me and this team.
“I mean, I got great relationships in that locker room. So whoever was trying to tear it down, you can’t. I think that the best thing about it is that it’s been an amazing journey coming here, moving here, being here.”
Wilson is well-coached when it comes to speaking publicly. His positive response is no surprise, but at 3-8 and in the midst of his worst season of his career, it would be understandable if Wilson’s always-sunny persona started to show some cracks.
So far, it hasn’t.
“My confidence never wavers. It doesn’t waver,” Wilson said. “I know how much work I put into it. I know who I am. I know what I’ve done. I know this team, too, and how much we’re working, so confidence doesn’t waver.”
Hackett downplayed Pelissero’s report when asked about it Wednesday, telling media members, “it’s all gossip.”
“We have a fantastic locker room,” Hackett said. “I’ve never seen somebody work that hard and try to embrace a team like he has.”
Wilson may have made substantial efforts to embrace his teammates, but his struggles have appeared to have made it difficult for them to reciprocate. Denver was supposed to be a new heavyweight in the AFC, a squad stocked with playmakers on both sides of the ball capable of mounting a serious Super Bowl run.
Instead, only one half of that equation — Denver’s third-ranked defense — has shown up. With just three wins through 11 games, it appears the other half might never arrive, calling into question both Denver’s decision to acquire Wilson and where the franchise, which anchored itself to Wilson with a lucrative extension, is headed.
Folks are also understandably wondering whether Wilson’s best days are behind him.
“I don’t even need to respond to that,” Wilson, 34, said. “I think that at the end of the day, I know who I am as a player. I think that also, too, I feel better than ever. I’ve been getting better mentally and physically every day. I’ve obviously had some tough stuff this year with the shoulder and everything else, but you battle through it. You play through it.
“You play ball, and we got a long ways to go. I’m excited about what’s ahead with this football team and what we’re going to do.”
Time’s running out on these Broncos, at least for 2022. It might also be the fourth quarter for Hackett in only his first season as a head coach. If a change must be made, it won’t be at quarterback; the finances simply won’t allow it.
For now, the Broncos can only do one thing: present a united front, wear a smile and keep pushing forward. Denver is likely hoping another teammate of Wilson’s doesn’t go after him in front of network television cameras again in the weeks ahead.
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Around The NFL Writer