ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — After relishing in their rout in Arizona last week, the Denver Broncos have found themselves dealing with trade rumors, Halloween party poopers, a backup quarterback’s arrest and the owner’s family’s fight being played out in public thanks to a lawsuit.
All the while, the Broncos (3-4) are preparing for a crucial game at Kansas City , where another loss to the Chiefs (6-1) might send the team spiraling toward its first back-to-back losing seasons since 1971-72.
Coach Vance Joseph understands that Broncos fans pay attention to all things Broncos, but he insists the players and coaches aren’t distracted by any of the outside noise.
“There’s noise every day in this business,” Joseph said Friday. “It’s my job to keep this team focused .”
After the Broncos’ 45-10 win over the Cardinals last week, the good vibes came to a quick halt with rumors over the weekend that ninth-year receiver Demaryius Thomas, the team’s longest-tenured member, was on the trading block ahead of next week’s deadline.
Emmanuel Sanders, Brandon Marshall, Bradley Roby and Chris Harris Jr. all heard their names bandied about, as well.
On Monday night, there was the Halloween party hosted by Von Miller that ended up the talk of the town, first when some players wore costumes depicting drug-addicted characters or celebrities and shared video on social media and then when backup QB Chad Kelly was arrested early Tuesday morning on suspicion of criminal trespassing after leaving the party.
On Wednesday, Kelly was summoned to team headquarters ahead of his court appearance and Elway informed him he was done in Denver.
On Thursday night, a rift in the team owner’s family became public when Pat Bowlen’s brother, Bill, filed a complaint in state district court seeking the removal of the trustees who have been running the franchise since 2014 when Pat Bowlen, 74, stepped down to battle Alzheimer’s.
Pat Bowlen entrusted the club’s operations to his trust until one of his seven children is deemed ready to take over the franchise, which is valued at about $2.5 billion.
The complaint, filed in Arapahoe District Court, questions whether Pat Bowlen was of sound mind to establish the trust in March 2009 and it asks that team President Joe Ellis, Broncos general counsel Rich Slivka and attorney Mary Kelly be removed for conflicts of interest, overlapping fiduciary roles and failure to act in good faith.
All of this was met by blank stares in the locker room Friday.
“I don’t think it’s any different than any other week. I really don’t hear the outside noise,” linebacker Todd Davis said. “Actually, I didn’t even know about the Bowlen lawsuit and everything until you told me about that right now. I kind of disconnect myself. I log off all my social media when I go home with the family and then I just watch film. So, if it’s not football or not family, I’m kind of oblivious to it.”
He insisted he wasn’t an outlier in that regard, either.
“This locker room hasn’t talked about anything but the Chiefs,” Davis said. “We haven’t talked about any of the outside noise. So, I think we’re 100 percent focused.”
Bill Bowlen’s complaint was filed five days after Brittany Bowlen , 28, announced she hopes to one day succeed her father as Broncos principal owner.
The complaint states that Pat Bowlen began showing signs of Alzheimer’s in 2006, three years before he made significant changes to his estate planning documents and about eight years before he stepped away from day-to-day team operations.
Bill Bowlen’s filing criticizes the trust for dismissing an effort by Beth Bowlen Wallace — Pat’s daughter from his first marriage — to become principal owner and accused the trustees of causing and “continuing to cause dysfunction in the team and Bowlen family.”
It said that Bill Bowlen “prays that filing this action will relive the Bowlen family (and the team) from the uncertainty and turmoil surrounding the ownership of the Denver Broncos.”
When Beth Bowlen Wallace announced in May her desire to take over as principal owner of the team, the Pat Bowlen Trust issued a statement saying she was “not capable or qualified at this time.”
Beth Bowlen Wallace was hired as the team’s director of special projects in 2012, and the complaint states that Pat Bowlen’s wife, Annabel Bowlen, who was to have no management role in the team, per her husband’s wishes, “became very upset and threatened to have … Ellis fired” after Beth attended the NFL spring owners meeting in March 2012. Beth was fired from her position in 2015 and has been denied further employment opportunities with the team, the complaint states.
Dan Reilly, legal counsel for the Pat Bowlen Trust, responding to the complaint by saying, “The trustees will continue to execute Pat Bowlen’s long-standing succession plan for the Denver Broncos in compliance with all NFL ownership policies.”
The NFL didn’t return a message seeking comment on the lawsuit’s accusations.
Joseph insisted the Broncos weren’t unique in having to block out so much on the team’s periphery.
“Everyone has issues,” Joseph said. “We have no excuses. Every team has problems, every team has gossip and rumors. So, we simply don’t care about that, honestly. That’s truthful. We don’t care.”
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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