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Russell Wilson, Broncos refute notion of locker room division: 'People are just making up rumors about him'

Parker Gabriel, The Denver Post on

Published in Football

Head coach Nathaniel Hackett and several players on Wednesday refuted any notion that quarterback Russell Wilson had lost the confidence of some teammates.

Broncos safety Justin Simmons gave an animated defense of the quarterback, speaking at length about Wilson’s leadership and then saying he’d prefer to only answer questions about Sunday’s game against the Ravens the rest of his time at the podium because “I just don’t see where it comes from, those reports, because Russ has been nothing but great. Obviously, it hasn’t been the season any of us have wanted, but I just can’t fathom thinking of that stuff.”

A day earlier, an NFL Network reporter on a podcast said that Wilson, in the midst of the worst statistical season of his career, “has lost some people around that team. He has lost some people in that locker room.”

Left guard Dalton Risner’s reaction? “I’d say that’s not true, man. I stay away from all that, I don’t see any of that stuff anymore and that’s been great. But that’s hilarious in my opinion. That’s funny. I don’t think it’s true. I know it’s not true. I know who Russell is, I respect the way he integrates within our locker room and I feel like all year he hasn’t been able to catch a break.

“People are just making up rumors about him, whether that be that he’s not a good teammate or he’s lost the locker room, apparently, or whatever the heck it is. A lot of it is just so outlandish to me because I get to see him work every day.”

In the locker room, several players rolled their eyes at the assertion of a loss of confidence in Wilson. Right guard Quinn Meinerz referred to it as “weird gossip” and said, “I stand behind my quarterback 100%.”

It’s been a trying season for the Broncos, who enter Week 13 at 3-8 overall and losers of seven of their past eight. Frustration has been evident, including during Sunday’s loss at Carolina, when defensive lineman Mike Purcell yelled at Wilson on his way off the field in the fourth quarter.

“There’s always noise, especially when things aren’t going the way you want them to,” Wilson said Wednesday. “The thing is that you don’t bat an eye. My biggest goal every day is to try to lead at the highest level and to be consistent every day in my approach.”

 

Wilson’s become a target of criticism and scrutiny both because of his poor play and because of his penchant for creating viral moments, many of them cringeworthy, like the “Let’s Ride” video in the preseason or his assertion that he spent much of the team’s flight to London doing exercises in the aisle of the airplane while his teammates slept in an effort to expedite his recovery from a hamstring injury.

Compounding the social media fervor, of course, is that the Broncos are last in the NFL in scoring at 14.3 points per game and have scored multiple touchdowns in only two of 11 games. Wilson has thrown only eight touchdowns and is completing a career-worst 58.9% of his passes while averaging a career-low 7.1 yards per attempt. A loss Sunday to the Ravens would be Denver’s eighth in games Wilson started, tied for the most he ever had in Seattle.

“When you sign up for this profession, wherever it is, especially a quarterback, certain coaches and certain players, if you lose you’re going to get criticism, it’s that simple,” Hackett said Wednesday after lauding Wilson’s leadership. “The idea is you have to keep your head down, you’ve got to keep working, you’ve got to do everything you can to put the team in the best position and they have to feel that and know that.

“That’s something that Russ does. He doesn’t get affected. He keeps coming out and working. Heck, he might work even harder when I didn’t think you could.”

Wilson said he’s “excited to be here for a long time and for us to turn this thing around,” and expressed confidence in his status among his teammates.

“Everybody wants to win,” Wilson said. “We all want to win and nobody wants to win more than me and this team. … I’ve got great relationships in the locker room. So whoever is trying to tear that down, you can’t.”

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