The hidden side of politics

Wilson: Focus on winning, in Denver or elsewhere

Reported by ESPN:

As he did after he was benched this past season, Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson said he still hopes he can finish his career in Denver, but added, “You also want to be [in] a place that wants you, too.”

Wilson’s latest comments came as part of a wide-ranging, 84-minute interview with former Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall on the “I Am Athlete” podcast posted Sunday night. Wilson addressed the uncertainty about his immediate NFL future as well as his desire to win two more Super Bowls during his career.

“I’ve got more fire than ever, honestly, especially over the past two years of what I’ve gone through,” Wilson said when Marshall asked about the 35-year-old quarterback’s desire. “Whether it’s in Denver or somewhere else, I hope it’s in Denver, I hope I get to finish there. I committed there, I wanted to be there. I want to be there.”

He added: “For me, it’s about winning — over the next two years, I want to win two [Super Bowls], I want to feel the chill of that trophy again. I love the city and everything else, but you also want to be [in] a place that wants you, too. The thing I want to do is to win, that’s all I care about.”

Asked where he would play in 2024 if it isn’t in Denver, Wilson responded: “Honestly, I haven’t thought about it.”

Marshall then read to Wilson the odds on him playing for a variety of teams next season, and the quarterback responded: “Well, I’m going to put Denver 1, because I’m there right now, but I think you have to have the ability to compartmentalize that. Listen, it’s a business and you’ve got to be non-emotional about it … and no matter what you control to what you can control. … If it’s not [in Denver], though, I’ve got to go to a place where we can win again.”

That echoed what Wilson said in December during his last public interview in the Broncos locker room.

“I hope that it’s here, I hope that it’s here for a long time,” he said then. “I hope we win some more silverware in the front hall and we get some more championships, and if it’s not here, I’ll be prepared to do that somewhere else, but I hope that it’s here, I genuinely mean that. I brought my family here and everything else.”

On Dec. 27, Broncos coach Sean Payton announced that Wilson would be benched in favor of Jarrett Stidham for the team’s Dec. 31 game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Stidham also started the season finale against the Raiders in Las Vegas on Jan. 7.

The Broncos went 1-1 in those games, with two of their four lowest scoring outputs of the season — 16 points in a win over the Chargers and 14 in a loss to the Raiders.

Payton has said it was a football decision he made in search of “a spark” on offense. Wilson, however, said Dec. 29 that the Broncos approached him about waiving a clause in the five-year, $242.6 million contract he signed in 2022 that would give the quarterback, who already is guaranteed $39 million in 2024 whether he is on the team or not, another $37 million (his 2025 salary) guaranteed if he can’t pass a physical on the fifth day of the new league year in March.

Wilson said at the time that the “Monday or Tuesday” after the Broncos’ Oct. 29 win over the Chiefs — which broke Denver’s 16-game losing streak to Kansas City — the Broncos’ decision-makers said they would bench him if he didn’t adjust the $37 million guarantee. “They definitely told me I was going to be benched and all that,” Wilson said then.

In the interview with Marshall, Wilson expanded on that, adding: “I didn’t believe it at first. … I got that call, ‘Hey, we’re going to bench you for the next nine games if you don’t change your injury guarantee.’ … I didn’t want to set a precedent for players with injury guarantees, there was no way I was going to do that. … I told them I wasn’t going to do it, no shot.”

Wilson also noted that Payton, in the days the before the Broncos’ Nov. 13 game against the Buffalo Bills, then told him to “act like nothing happened, you’re going to play this week, we’ve got to go win a big game in Buffalo.”

Wilson added that “nobody knew, the only person who actually knew on the team was [wide receiver] Courtland [Sutton] … the only person that knew player-wise [the] first couple weeks was Courtland.”

The drama has led to widespread speculation around the league that the Broncos will release Wilson in the weeks to come, take on $85 million in dead money against their salary cap next season, and open up the quarterback job just two years after sending five draft picks (including two first-rounders and two second-rounders) and three starters to the Seattle Seahawks to acquire him.

And despite the Broncos and Wilson each saying publicly that the veteran could stay with the team, he has put his Denver home up for sale in recent weeks and real estate agents have given tours of it to prospective buyers.

Wilson also told Marshall:

• On going through the season after the contract/benching discussion: “You swallow that pill, you swallow what you’re going through. … Yeah, it was hard. … I didn’t talk to anybody about it, really.”

• That former Seahawks coach Pete Carroll texted him several times this past season to say, “I still believe in you.”

• That he had a knee injury “cleaned up” with surgery after the 2022 season, his first in Denver, allowing him to move better in 2023. Wilson added, “For me going to Denver, I’ve got to play through [the injuries], I want to win … going through that first year in Denver, things not going the way we wanted them to, but I signed up for the long term there.”

• On his future: “Next five years I get to hold two more Super Bowl trophies, that’s my goal … that’s my plan … knowing that you want to be one of the greatest winners to play this game.”