On the first day of Broncos training camp, running back Ronnie Hillman rolled into the players’ parking lot with a flat tire.
So there’s your room-service metaphor for the bumps in the Broncos’ road heading into a camp that is supposed to serve as prelude to a Super Bowl.
For perhaps the first time in NFL history, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was the most forthcoming interview of the day. While Belichick talked at length in New England about the implications of murder charges against former tight end Aaron Hernandez, Broncos coach John Fox declined to address either the DUI charges against two Broncos executives or the reported suspension facing linebacker Von Miller.
“The front office situation, obviously, is not a good thing for the organization, but again, an old coach told me a long time ago to stay in your lane,” Fox said. “My job’s dealing with the football team and that’s where we’re ready to be focused on and embark on. I have great confidence in Pat Bowlen and Joe Ellis and John Elway to handle anything in that area, and that is their area. So all my focus is on our area and that’s to make sure our coaches and players are ready for this season.”
Asked about the four-week suspension Miller has appealed, Fox said this:
“First of all, let me make one thing perfectly clear. We’re aware of the reports. Due to confidentiality, we can’t report, but I can sit here and tell you as of right now, when we start camp, every one of our players is eligible, there’s no suspensions, and that’s the way we’ll start the season.”
I’m assuming Fox used “the season” in its broadest sense, meaning it starts tomorrow with the first practice of training camp. He was asked if he’s thought about how he would handle a Miller suspension if it comes.
“No, because that’s not reality,” he said. “Again, we’re going to embark on a very long season. I’m sure there’s going to be some adversity as well as some prosperity along the way, no different than any other season that I’ve ever approached. This will be no different.”
For his part, Miller came equipped with a few talking points and he stuck to them.
“I want to start off by saying I’m obviously aware of the situations surrounding me, but out of respect for confidentiality and out of respect of this being an ongoing situation, I can’t really touch into further detail about it,” the third-year linebacker said. “I have filed an appeal with the NFL, obviously, and I cantouch in more detail whenever this subject gets resolved.”
Miller was also not ready to apologize to his teammates or anybody else.
“No, I don’t think I let my teammates down,” he said. “Everybody has toughmoments in their lives. I have great teammates. Teammates have been great for me. But out of respect for the whole situation, I can sit down and talk to you guys or talk in further detail about this when everything’s resolved.”
Asked if smoking marijuana is part of his life, Miller replied: “Absolutely not.”
The Broncos’ defensive star also declined to repeat his prediction, posted on his Twitter account in March, that the Broncos will win the Super Bowl this year:
“You can post this where ever . . Denver broncos will win the Super Bowl 2013 #4UJEREMIAH #IGUARANTEEIT58”
Later on Twitter, he elaborated on the meaning of the first hashtag.
“This is why we win the Super Bowl 2013. My little cousin Jeremiah came out of a coma frm a car wreck In west Tx I (heart) U.”
Wednesday, I asked him if he still felt the same way.
“Our focus is where it’s always been, and that’s coming out here and winning games,” he said. “That’s where it starts. It starts out here in practice when we go out there and start practicing, running around, having fun. That’s where we’re going to keep our focus at.”
For one day, anyway, all this overshadowed the very high expectations for the Broncos, who are favored to win the Super Bowl by oddsmakers in Vegas. Fox said the hype won’t bother his team.
“Having done this for a long time, there’s always a lot of noise,” he said. “Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but you’d better be able to focus through the noise. That’s not going to change, whether it’s this week or next week.
“I think what you do is you prepare your players to be able to stay focused through those situations and whether it’s training camp, preseason, regular season, playoff season, I think it’s an important part of being a good or a championship football team.
“You know, I’ve been to a lot of horse races where I’ve seen a lot of favorites not win, so you’ve got to take care of things between those lines and I think everybody in that building understands that.”
While it’s tempting to pronounce judgment on Miller and the effects of his pending four-week suspension, we probably won’t know the outcome of his appeal until the middle of August. Until then, the best Broncos team since its last Super Bowl championship will be working its way into game shape on the practice fields of Dove Valley.
The additions of offensive lineman Louis Vasquez, wide receiver Wes Welker, running back Montee Ball, defensive linemen Sylvester Williams and Terrance Knighton, linebacker Shaun Phillips and defensive backs Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Quentin Jammer promise one of the most competitive camps in Broncos history.
But the question of Miller’s availability for the first quarter of the season will hang over the club until the league resolves his appeal. Until then, it’s likely to remain the biggest question facing the Broncos.