BRONCOS

The Russell Wilson-Broncos relationship continues to get more complicated

Feb 25, 2024, 8:50 PM | Updated: 9:24 pm

Russell Wilson had plenty to say to Brandon Marshall recently.

Wilson joined the former NFL wide receiver on his I AM ATHLETE podcast and YouTube program for a discussion that lasted for over one hour. The show dropped on digital channels Sunday night.

And Wilson made one claim that raised eyebrows — that the NFL said that the Broncos’ request to have him delay the onset of his injury guarantee was illegal.

“My agent talked to the NFLPA, the NFLPA called me and asked, and then they talked to the NFL, and the NFL was like, ‘This is illegal; you can’t do this,’” Wilson said.

According to a source with knowledge, the NFL did not convey such sentiments regarding the situation.

NFL Players Association executive director Lloyd Howell Jr. did assert that the Broncos “mistreated” Wilson when discussing the subject at a press conference on Feb. 7 in Las Vegas in advance of Super Bowl LVIII. However, Howell added that the matter was resolved to the satisfaction of the NFLPA.

WILSON DETAILS HIS REACTION TO THE BRONCOS’ INITIAL REQUEST

Russell Wilson said the Broncos reached out to him about delaying the injury guarantee on Oct. 30, one day after a win over Kansas City that snapped a 16-game series losing streak.

“As you (Marshall) mentioned earlier, that’s when I got that call, and I was like, ‘I’m confused; what’s going on?’ I didn’t believe it at first. I was like, ‘This can’t be real.’ And I got that call, like, ‘Hey, we’re going to bench you for the next nine games if you don’t change your injury guarantee,’” Wilson said.

“They want to push back my injury guarantee and remove it for the rest of the year, that way, if I get injured, they don’t have to pay it.”

Marshall subsequently mentioned the examples of former San Francisco/Kansas City/Washington quarterback Alex Smith and ex-Broncos running back Willis McGahee, both of whom suffered horrific injuries. McGahee’s injury came in his final college game at the University of Miami, while Smith succumbed in 2018 while playing for Washington.

“I didn’t want to set a precedent for players to remove their injury guarantees, as well. It was no way I was gonna do that,” Wilson said. “So, when they said that ‘We’re gonna bench you, we’re gonna bench you,’ I said, ‘All right, if that’s what you want to do.”

Marshall replied, “That’s like, extortion. Like, you’ve got the NFLPA involved, attorneys involved, obviously.”

Wilson said he didn’t want to bring other parties — such as the NFLPA — into the discussion.

“Well, I didn’t want to, but then, [the Broncos] kept saying it all the way throughout the week,” Wilson said.

“So, then, my agent talked to the NFLPA, the NFLPA called me and asked, and then they talked to the NFL, and the NFL was like, ‘This is illegal; you can’t do this.’”

Wilson said there was “no shot” of him agreeing to an alteration of the injury guarantee.

“No shot. I ain’t taking my injury guarantee away. So, I’m sitting there, ‘Like, OK, we’ll see what happens,’” Wilson said.

That lingered through Saturday, Nov. 4. Two days later when the Broncos returned from their bye weekend, Wilson said Sean Payton met with him.

“On that Monday, that’s when I meet with Sean, and Sean’s like, ‘Hey, forget it, like nothing happened. You’re going to play this week against Buffalo. We’ve got a big game against Buffalo; we’ve gotta go win on Monday Night Football. I’m like, ‘All right.’”

Wilson would start seven more games. Denver went 4-3 in those contests, winning the first three post-bye games before going 1-3 in December with him at quarterback.

WHEN THE BENCHING FINALLY HAPPENED …

… on Dec. 27, Russell Wilson was flummoxed.

“That Wednesday, that’s when he told me he was gonna bench me, and I was like, ‘Man, we were just winning not too long ago,’” Wilson told Marshall.

Despite the benching and the contract issues, Wilson wants to remain a Bronco. At one point, Marshall began tossing out the oddsmakers’ favorites regarding Wilson’s potential landing spot.

“Well, I would put Denver (at) one, ‘cause I’m there right now,” he said. “And I think you have to have the ability to compartmentalize.”

“I think you have to have the ability to compartmentalize that listen, it’s a business. You’ve gotta be also non-emotional about it, too, at the same time. You’ve gotta know there’s ebbs and flows to it. Winning heals all wounds. Me, it’s really focusing on being the best version of me, and that you can control what you can control.”

In the end, Wilson hopes that version shows up in Denver.

“I’d love to be there,” he said.

“If it’s not there, though. I’ve gotta go to a place where we’re gonna win again. That’s what matters.”

RUSSELL WILSON AND HIS CONNECTION WITH BRANDON MARSHALL

Marshall was briefly a teammate of Russell Wilson in Seattle. The two played together for seven games in the 2018 season — Marshall’s 13th and final campaign in a career that began as a fourth-round choice of the Denver Broncos in 2006.

They remained in contact over the following years. At one point in 2022, Marshall and Wilson discussed how the now-retired receiver reached out to the quarterback to say he should go on injured reserve when he suffered a lat injury four games into his first Broncos season.

“[I] dove and got the first down and I just landed funny and I tore my whole lat and I was like, ‘Oh, man, I may have to sit out.’ But I was gonna play through it,” Wilson said.

“I think that part of it was, yeah, you leave Seattle, come to Denver your first year there, you want to be able to play through stuff and be there on the field. Because I remember, like you said, you should be sitting out. For me, it wasn’t an option.

For me, going to Denver, I was like, ‘I’ve gotta play through it.’ And I want to win. That’s all I care about, was winning. I’ve played through things before and won.”

Wilson had never missed an NFL game before sitting out three contests with Seattle in 2021 due to a finger injury. He would miss two games due to injuries as a Bronco: one because of a hamstring injury — a 16-9 loss to the New York Jets in Week 7 of the 2022 season — and another eight weeks later because of a concussion.

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The Russell Wilson-Broncos relationship continues to get more complicated