The consequences were swift for Denver Broncos director of player personnel Matt Russell and director of pro personnel Tom Heckert in the wake of their arrests for driving under the influence in Colorado.
Russell was suspended indefinitely without pay by the Broncos, and Heckert was suspended without pay for one month starting Monday, leaving the Broncos' scouting department in disarray.
Executive vice president of football operations John Elway, the Hall of Fame quarterback, has done a nice job of upgrading the talent on the Broncos' roster.
Besides acquiring quarterback Peyton Manning last year and drafting star outside linebacker Von Miller, Elway added slot wide receiver Wes Welker this offseason. The Broncos' biggest stumble was losing Pro Bowl outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil to the Ravens when a well-publicized fax debacle forced them to cut the star pass rusher.
What Elway lacks now is the collective experience and practiced eyes and advice from Russell and Heckert. He has other capable people in the department, but there's now a void there with Russell and Heckert being disciplined.
While it's a stretch to say these developments will distract the players since they probably don't interact much with Russell and Heckert, it does create a hole in terms of losing two proven evaluators.
Will it affect the Broncos heading into their season opener against the Ravens? It's hard to say definitively how much, but it's obviously a negative development beyond the bad publicity.
If the Broncos aren't getting the same kind of quality information on their own players and players around the league, including the Ravens, with Russell and Heckert out of the picture and Heckert slated to return in the middle of training camp, then it could have a subtle impact on the Broncos' operations and preparations for the NFL's first game of the season.
After the Ravens' double-overtime victory in the AFC divisional round last season, the Broncos will be eager to try to kickstart their season with a win over the Super Bowl champs.
It's been an especially rough summer for the Broncos.
Besides Russell and Heckert being arrested, reserve offensive lineman Quentin Saulsberry was also arrested for suspicion of drunken driving in May.
The Broncos have a lot of work to do to get their house in order. That will likely involve a hiring process to potentially add staffers to pick up the slack.
It will clearly be a challenge for them to prevent the off-field issues from impacting their work to get ready for the Ravens.
Elway broke his silence Monday when the suspensions were announced in the following statement:
“When I was named to this position two years ago, I spoke of the role this organization has in the community. We all have an individual responsibility to represent this team in the appropriate manner at all times. It’s particularly disappointing that two members of my staff acted so irresponsibly. Simply put, it’s unacceptable and inexcusable. I was extremely concerned when Tom Heckert notified me of his arrest in June. We talked about it as a staff, reinforced the intolerable nature of his actions and notified the league as we began the disciplinary process.
"To hear of Matt Russell’s incident last week was especially disturbing considering the timing and severity of those allegations. While Matt and Tom have apologized and taken accountability, it’s most important they take advantage of whatever help they need. We will learn from this and take the necessary action as we move forward in a positive way.”
How well the Broncos move forward, on and off the field, will be interesting to observe heading into the season-opener.
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