ENGLEWOOD — For good reason, the Broncos have kept their mouths shut, even as the Seahawks crow on and on about their Super Bowl championship.
But how do the Broncos really feel? As the season inches closer — including a rematch in the preseason opener and again in Week 3 — the truth is starting to surface.
“(Bleep) Seattle,” Broncos defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson told me after practice on Monday. “Write it down. Take a picture.”
Super Bowl XLVIII offered a snapshot of a mismatch: 43-8.
While acknowledging the ‘Hawks earned the right to smack their gums as if there were a word bonus in their contract, Vickerson said the Broncos took notice.
And all the trash talk coming out of the Pacific Northwest isn’t sitting well at Broncos headquarters.
“Some guys, that’s what they do to get ramped up. But when you step in between the lines, pads talk. Let your pads talk,” Vickerson said. “That’s my mindset, that’s my demeanor when I go out on the field. Some guys are media guys. Some guys are cut different. But when you go to really looking at football and playing football, it’s between the lines. Buckle your chinstrap and let your pads talk, man.”
Vickerson was one of five defensive starters who didn’t play for the Broncos in the Super Bowl due to injury. Instead, he watched from the sideline as Seattle turned the New York Super Bowl into a New Jersey mugging.
“I cried,” Vickerson said. “I ain’t going to lie to you.”
“You’re trying to get to a Super Bowl and then it finally happens and it’s your former team and I can’t play? All the emotion is built up inside,” he added. “I couldn’t hold it back. I was trying to fight it. That’s how bad I wanted it.
“My passion for the game runs deeper than money and the flashy things. It’s a love. It’s a real passion for me. For me to work my whole career to get to a Super Bowl — and then all that — it was definitely hard.”
Thankfully, for the sake of the Broncos’ pride, the Seahawks are on the schedule twice. Thankfully, for the rest of us, we get to watch both.
The Broncos host the Seahawks in the preseason opener for both teams on Aug. 7. Here’s a hunch that exhibition carries a tad more meaning than your average preseason matchup. The Broncos also travel to Seattle for a Week 3 game Sept. 21.
Altogether now: Thank you kindly, NFL schedule-makers.
“We’re looking at all the games on the schedule,” said safety Rahim Moore, another starter who was absent from the Super Bowl due to injury. “Not just one or two.”
Vickerson, who had developed into a key player on Denver’s defensive line and as a popular presence in the locker room, sustained a hip injury and was placed on injured reserve before the 2013 playoffs. He has performed only light work during training camp but expects to be available for the regular season.
Soft-spoken off the field and a fiery player on it, Vickerson said the Super Bowl pairing had special importance to him, largely due to his history with Seattle.
“It was a very personal game for me. I got traded to Seattle from Tennessee (in 2010),” he said. “It is what it is. I look at every opponent the same way: I don’t care about those guys. I care about my team and my players and my coaches and my people that are with me. If you don’t got the same colors as me, I don’t give a …”
His voice trailed off. But the impact of the Super Bowl loss — and the Seattle revelry that followed — has produced a lasting effect on the Broncos.
“I did the What-ifs too many times. The game would definitely have been different (if the Broncos had their full contingent of defensive players),” Vickerson said. “All we can do now is try to get them back this first game and then the fourth or third game, or whenever we play them. Turn the page.
“Hopefully we see them again later when we’re healthy, since everybody’s got us No. 1 anyway.”