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

said.

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,”

Ellis said.

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

organization.”

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,”

Ellis said.

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

corner.

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

suspensions.

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

Thursday.”

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

affidavit.

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

driving.

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

http://twitter.com/arniestapleton