Broncos respond to reports of Russell Wilson losing the locker room
On Tuesday, a very interesting video dropped featuring NFL Network insiders Tom Pelissero and Mike Garafolo. Pelissero and Garafolo were doing their show The Insiders and dropped some very interesting, very revealing, very damning information about Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson.
You can check out the video for yourself here, or read my response and thoughts on the video here. What the video revealed — through reports from both Pelissero and Garafolo — is that Wilson, not Nathaniel Hackett, is the one losing some of the locker room with the team right now. They reported things like teammates viewing Wilson “side-eyed” since early in the offseason, players growing tired of his antics, and name-dropping some specific things like showing up to training camp wearing his own throwback jersey among other things.
Both Pelissero and Garafolo outlined different context for teammates in Denver growing tired of Wilson’s persona, which included them implying that he was never really a leader by the choice of his teammates in Seattle, more so that he became a leader by default and that young players coming in after the Seahawks‘ Super Bowl team was dismantled didn’t know any better.
There is really no denying the tone this video took toward Russell Wilson. It was painful to watch for Denver Broncos fans because it seemingly painted a picture of this reality of the Broncos being in a prison with Russell Wilson and no way out of it.
These reports came from Pelissero and Garafolo on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, the Denver Broncos came out with an all-out blitz in defense of Russ. It just so happened that the reports from Pelissero and Garafolo came out on Russell Wilson’s birthday, so the first report that came out in defense of Wilson was early Wednesday morning, a report that sort of went viral in the football world…
Denver Broncos come out in defense of Russell Wilson after locker room reports
After Klis’ report, the news of about half the team going to Wilson’s surprise birthday party were obviously warped into questions of why only half the team showed up and which players specifically weren’t there. Others took to Twitter wondering why that was ever a story in the first place including former Broncos player Su’a Cravens who said that half the team at a birthday party is a great turnout, and Broncos defensive lineman DJ Jones taking to Twitter saying that people were “reaching” by making that a story in the first place.
Then the Broncos’ top leaders took the podium for press conferences on Wednesday as they always do. Nathaniel Hackett also dismissed the rumors about Wilson as gossip, reiterating how much everybody on the team loves him.
Offensive lineman Dalton Risner also took the podium and gave his defense of Wilson and reports of him losing some in the locker room:
"“I’d say that’s not true. It’s funny because I stay away from all that. I can’t see any of that stuff anymore, and it’s been great. That’s just hilarious in my opinion. That’s funny because I don’t think it’s true. I know it’s not true. I know that I know who [QB] Russell [Wilson] is. I respect him so much. I respect the way he integrates within our locker room. I feel like all year, he hasn’t really been able to catch a break. People are just making up rumors about him, whether that be he’s not a good teammate or he’s lost the locker room, apparently, or whatever the heck it is. A lot of it’s just so outlandish to me because I get to see him work every day. I can see how much he cares about the guys in the locker room, the devotion he has in this game, the attitude that he brings a practice every day, and the attitude he brings to the football field. We may not be having a good season and we may be 3-8, but I respect the heck out of Russell Wilson and the way he’s leading this football team amongst everything he’s had to deal with this year.”Broncos OL Dalton Risner (via Broncos PR)"
Justin Simmons also came out in defense of Wilson, saying Russ is an “amazing leader” and an “amazing teammate”. Of course, a couple of key voices coming out and speaking in defense of Wilson doesn’t mean that there is unanimous approval for Wilson in the locker room. We all saw the frustration boil over for Mike Purcell on Sunday afternoon against the Panthers, and perhaps that was something the whole team needed in order to really just hit the reset button amidst some very tough times.
Even Pelissero, whose report really sparked this wildfire in the first place, came out and clarified his statements.
Remember that Pelissero is extremely well-connected to Broncos GM George Paton. That statement he issued on the next episode of The Insiders really felt like somewhat of an apology to Wilson and the Broncos without really being an apology. Pelissero didn’t exactly take back his report of Russ losing some of the locker room, but he did outline a lot of reason why Russ and the offense are struggling.
Where do the Broncos go from here after all the drama?
Sometimes, reports like this can be very good for a team. When you have someone like Wilson being painted as the enemy — which he seemingly has all year — perhaps the team can take all of that bulletin board material and really rally around their QB. We saw KJ Hamler’s frustration boil over against the Indianapolis Colts when he was wide open and missed in the progression by Wilson, but then we also saw him go up to Russ and give him a big hug after the Broncos’ comeback victory vs. the Jaguars in London.
Interesting how people made a really big deal out of one of those events and not so big of a deal out of the other, isn’t it?
What’s clear right now is that the Broncos need to turn things around quickly or wholesale changes are going to be made. Barring a miraculous outpouring of offense, I think these will be the final six games for Nathaniel Hackett as head coach of the Denver Broncos, but you also never know. I also think that the Broncos are going to have to take action to make better contingency plans for Wilson in the 2023 offseason. If Wilson has been playing through and dealing with injuries, the Broncos have to have a legitimate option (or two) to turn to so the team can succeed while Russ gets healthy.
As Pelissero pointed out in his original report — the Broncos have had to try so many different things this year to find offensive success, and they just haven’t been able to do it. A banged-up Russell Wilson hasn’t been able to be the tide raising all boats in the harbor, which is something pretty much everyone — perhaps Russ included — felt like he could and would do.
Has Russell Wilson lost some of the Denver Broncos locker room? Maybe. Not according to his teammates, but according to NFL insiders and reporters. Has the Mr. Unlimited charade grown tiresome for many? Yes. Do people in Broncos Country resent Wilson for his pay grade and lack of corresponding performance? Yes.
Can the Broncos turn things around? That remains to be seen. Would anybody care about Wilson’s celebrity status and quirks if the team was winning? Absolutely not, but that’s not the current reality. As the insiders Tom Pelissero and Mike Garafolo quipped, the Broncos are seemingly just in “Let’s ride…it out” mode for the time being.
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Perhaps starting this weekend against the Ravens, with this newfound bulletin board material, the Broncos can get back to “Let’s Ride” status.