2 Broncos execs suspended for DUI arrests
The Denver Broncos came down hard on their two executives facing
drunken driving charges, suspending them without pay and making it
clear they must straighten out their lives if they want to work in
the NFL again.
Director of player personnel Matt Russell was suspended
indefinitely, and director of pro personnel Tom Heckert was
suspended for a month.
Team president Joe Ellis said both men expressed remorse. But
”this in no way excuses their conduct,” Ellis said.
Russell and Heckert will be provided with confidential
treatment, rehabilitation and counseling services and must comply
with these programs before they’re allowed to return to work, Ellis
While the two ”will be punished and held accountable, our first
priority is their health and well-being. We must ensure they
receive any care they need and support them however possible,”
While some critics were calling for the executives’ ouster,
Ellis emphasized, ”We’re not inclined to tear down lives even
further. We’re inclined to help people rebuild themselves.”
The Broncos issued the penalties Monday after consulting with
the NFL commissioner’s office, which informed them it has no plans
to impose additional discipline.
However, both men still face legal ramifications for their
actions that could affect their future employment with the Broncos,
who said they ”will give careful consideration to the legal
proceedings in determining their future standing with the
Executive vice president John Elway’s top two advisers were
arrested and jailed on suspicion of drunken driving in separate
incidents within a month of each other this summer, resulting in
the biggest black eye for the organization since a videotape
scandal cost former coach Josh McDaniels his job in 2010.
Elway was brought on board after McDaniels’ firing, and the Hall
of Fame quarterback who led Denver to five Super Bowls and two
championships quickly restored its reputation – until the trouble
for his top two lieutenants this offseason.
”When I was named to this position two years ago, I spoke of
the role this organization has in the community. We all have an
individual responsibility to represent this team in the appropriate
manner at all times,” Elway said. ”It’s particularly
disappointing that two members of my staff acted so irresponsibly.
Simply put, it’s unacceptable and inexcusable.”
”I was extremely concerned when Tom Heckert notified me of his
arrest in June. We talked about it as a staff, reinforced the
intolerable nature of his actions and notified the league as we
began the disciplinary process. To hear of Matt Russell’s incident
last week was especially disturbing considering the timing and
severity of those allegations,” Elway added.
”While Matt and Tom have apologized and taken accountability,
it’s most important they take advantage of whatever help they need.
We will learn from this and take the necessary action as we move
forward in a positive way.”
The punishment reflected a mixture of team owner Pat Bowlen’s
indignation and compassion.
”We handed down what we believe is significant discipline and
at the same time, the two gentlemen have not been fired,” Ellis
said. ”They can get the proper help and counseling and education
that’s necessary and the hope is they can improve their lives and
rebuild their lives.”
The team’s top brass informed Heckert and Russell of their
suspensions Monday morning.
”They embraced it and understand the need for it and we are
moving forward to take the right steps to correct the situation,”
The fallout from the executives’ DUI arrests could very well
affect the Broncos on the field as this summer’s trendy Super Bowl
pick will be without its top two personnel men at a time when
player evaluations are paramount with training camp just around the
Elway said other key members of the personnel department such as
Lenny McGill, the team’s assistant college scouting director, and
assistant pro personnel director Anthony ”Champ” Kelly will divvy
up the workload at Dove Valley and ”we’ll look at adding possibly
somebody else from outside to pick up the slack” during the
Ellis said he suspects the Broncos’ fortunes on the field won’t
be affected by their front office troubles, however.
”What this does to the football team other than serving as an
unpleasant reminder of not drinking and driving, I really don’t
anticipate these situations will affect our coaches and players,”
Ellis said. ”I think they’ll come out ready to go a week from
Russell, Elway’s right-hand man, was arrested July 6 while
celebrating his 40th birthday. He hit two vehicles, including a
police SUV in Breckenridge, injuring an officer, and he registered
a 0.246 percent breath alcohol content, three times the legal
threshold for a DUI violation in Colorado, according to the arrest
The Broncos kept Heckert’s arrest quiet until the AP reported it
last Tuesday, a day after Russell apologized for his arrest. That
revelation led the organization to acknowledge a ”disturbing
pattern of irresponsible behavior” that it vowed to clean up.
Heckert’s blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.162 percent
upon his release seven hours after his June 11 arrest in Parker,
according to a Douglas County Sheriff’s Office report.
Heckert, who turns 46 this week, is a former general manager of
the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns who had been working
for the Broncos just 36 days when he was arrested.
The Denver Post reported Monday that a search of state records
also revealed backup offensive lineman Quentin Saulsberry was
arrested May 19 in Arapahoe County on suspicion of drunken
Despite the rash of drunken driving arrests, Ellis said he
doesn’t think the Broncos have a cultural problem at their Dove
Valley headquarters, just a handful of employees ”who made
extremely poor decisions that completely contradict the values and
beliefs regarding social responsibilities that Mr. Bowlen expects
us all to follow.”
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton at