Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Klee: Be honest - we want to know how Broncos' DUIs affect Super Bowl chances

By Paul Klee Published: July 10, 2013

DENVER - Let's get this in print before another Broncos executive sits down for happy hour.

Happy hour is a sad time at Broncos headquarters, anyway.

The DUI charges slapped on team executives Matt Russell and Tom Heckert demand punishment. That much we can all agree on.

Be honest, though. What you really want to know is how this affects the Broncos' chase for a Super Bowl, right?

A former NFL general manager said Wednesday that training camp, which opens for the Broncos on July 25, is perhaps the most "critical" time of year for decision-makers in the personnel department.

It's during that time when the 53-man roster takes shape. The former GM said an NFL front office - with guys like Russell and Heckert - meets every night of training camp to review the performances of that day and determine where the roster is strong and where it needs help.

In 2012, the Broncos rumbled to a 13-3 record due in large part to the big names we knew would be there: stars like Peyton Manning, Von Miller and Ryan Clady.

But the additions of Keith Brooking (signed by the Broncos on Aug.?6), Jim Leonhard (Aug.?4) and Dan Koppen (Sept.?12) also contributed to one of the deepest rosters in the NFL. Those were not headline additions, but they were valuable additions, and those signings happened late.

So instead of a moral lesson on the dangers of DUI, not to mention the legal repercussions of DUI, let's focus on the football aspect.

Judging from the scary developments around the most popular sport in North America, winning and losing on the football field is all that matters.

Don't believe me?

It is frightening to think Patriots owner Robert Kraft was "duped" into believing Aaron Hernandez was a born-again choirboy. Duped was Kraft's word, not mine.

It is disturbing to think Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick believes Irish star Manti Te'o was a poor, helpless victim of a cruel Internet hoax and was honest about the whole thing. Victim was his word.

Kraft is among the more powerful figures at the pro level; Swarbrick runs the most influential of college football programs. Neither got there by being gullible.

Here are my words: Bogus on the both of you.

Hernandez can ball. That's why he was playing for the Patriots. Te'o can ball. He brought the Irish back into the national limelight. That's why Notre Dame protected its cash cow.

Before getting your Patriots and Irish pajamas in a crumple, this is not comparing the incidents. One is heinous; one is harmless. Hopefully we can all agree on that much, too.

This is simply stating the truth about big-money sports, now more than ever. The message couldn't be clearer if it were spray-painted on gold helmets:

Touchdowns and tackles trump all.

That's why it would be a surprise if the Broncos slam Heckert and Russell with simultaneous suspensions during a critical time of roster development, training camp.

That would remove a pair of key decision-makers from the meeting room at the same time a Super Bowl-caliber roster is being fine-tuned.

The more likely penalty has suspensions for both, at different times, or for different lengths of time. The suspensions might not come until training camp is over, after the 53-man roster is set and this sad storyline is so far out of our mind the raging masses forgot it happened.

The Broncos take their public image seriously. This is one pro franchise keenly aware it represents a region, not a city or even a state.

But I don't pretend to know what the Broncos will do with Heckert and Russell.

Only the Broncos know what the Broncos will do.

What we do know is this: Big-money football is a bottom-line business. And winning is the bottom line.

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