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Gazette Premium Content Klee: Just a preseason game? For Broncos, it should be about pride

By Paul Klee Updated: August 7, 2014 at 7:32 am

DENVER - They were best friends, classmates, teammates who once shared a locker room in high school. They were roommates during the NFL offseason.

Then came the Super Bowl, and it got personal. So, Omar Bolden, what did you think of your buddy, Bobby Wagner, saying the Broncos were "scared" of his Seahawks?

"I knew he was going on (ESPN's) 'First Take' that day," Bolden told me in a quiet moment during Broncos training camp. "So I hopped on the couch and turned on the TV."

And?

"I couldn't believe what he was saying," Bolden said.

The jaded among us will suggest Thursday's Broncos-Seahawks game is just the preseason, that it doesn't matter. And that is accurate when it comes to the final score.

But if the Broncos have any pride left after the Seahawks curb-stomped their self-esteem in a 43-8 Super Bowl win six months ago, this would be a good time to show it. Whether it's finishing a tackle or the inevitable shoving match that will erupt at Sports Authority Field, the Broncos can't cower into a hole like they did in February.

In a world where it seems like everyone gets a ribbon, a matchup against the Seahawks should mean something to the Broncos' pride.

Besides, if a preseason game has no value, why did team executive John Elway rip into the Broncos after their 40-10 loss at Seattle last year - in the preseason?

"John pretty much laid into us," Peyton Manning said in New Jersey during Super Bowl week. "He wasn't happy with that game."

If a preseason game meant that much to the greatest player in Broncos history, shouldn't it mean something to the Broncos who are trying to make history?

"Absolutely this means something," Bolden said. "It's like if you're playing your best friend or one of your brothers, someone close to you. And they beat you.

"The next time you guys play, you remember that. It leaves a sour taste in your mouth. You want to correct that taste."

Growing up in Southern California, Bolden and Wagner shared their lives. As teammates at Colony High School, they shared a championship. As roommates in Woodland Hills, they share an apartment during the NFL offseason.

About three weeks ago, Wagner, a linebacker with the Seahawks, made an appearance on ESPN and said of the Broncos: "They looked scared out there."

His roommate was watching from their shared couch.

"I tuned in: Oh, my boy is on 'First Take'! This is live. This is cool," Bolden said. "Then to hear him say that, it fired me up."

What was Bolden's response?

"I didn't say nothing to him."

The Super Bowl champions have done enough talking for both cities. At one point this offseason, I wondered if the Broncos would ever fire back. One of the few shots was launched when defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson told The Gazette:

"(Bleep) Seattle. Write it down. Take a picture."

Rule No. 1 of preseason games remains the same: don't get injured. Rule No. 2: don't get pushed around.

The Seahawks don't play football defense; they play football assault. Like I wrote at the Super Bowl, Seattle's approach to the game is like a midmajor basketball team trying to even the playing field against a blueblood in the NCAA Tournament: if you commit a penalty on every play, the officials can't throw a flag on every play.

Seattle dictates the officiating. Whether it's Manning's offense playing a token series, or the fourth-string tailback fighting for a roster spot, the Broncos must dictate the game and show they won't be bullied around.

In 23 games last season, the Broncos were bullied only twice - once in the Super Bowl and, yes, once in the preseason. On both occasions, the bully wore lime.

The only way the Broncos can exact revenge on the Seahawks is to win another Super Bowl. "Anything less than that is a failure," Bolden said.

Bolden and Wagner remain close friends, of course. But they no longer will be offseason roommates.

"This was our last year," Bolden said. "Our lease is up."

Do the Seahawks still have a lease on the Broncos?

A single preseason game won't show everything, but it will mean something.

-

Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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