Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson said he was “disappointed” and “surprised” when coach Sean Payton told him this week that he would be benched for the final two games of the season.
Wilson, who spoke Friday for the first time since Payton announced Jarrett Stidham would be the team's starting quarterback for the rest of the season, said the news surprised him largely because the Broncos (7-8) are still in the playoffs entering this week's 17th matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers, a game in which Wilson will be the No. 2 quarterback.
“I felt like we were doing something special and fresh,” Wilson said. “Obviously we've had some tough games, some tough close games, but we still have a chance. At the end of the day, what God has written for me, I'll still have faith in Him. I'll continue to give my best every day and be as professional as I can be, no matter the circumstances.” “I learned that a long time ago.”
Wilson said Denver called him after their Week 8 win over the Kansas City Chiefs and told him that if he didn't back out of the injury guarantee in his contract, he would be benched.
“We beat the Chiefs. They came to me at the beginning of the bye week — Monday or Tuesday — and told me that if I didn't change my contract, my injury guarantee, I would be on the bench for the rest of the year. … I was definitely disappointed about that.
Wilson confirmed reports that the NFLPA had been notified of the Broncos' request.
“I didn't want to take injury guarantees,” he said. “This game is a physical game. I've played for 12 years and that matters to me.
In the end, the Broncos did not sit Wilson after the bye week. He started the next seven games, most recently Sunday's 26-23 loss to the New England Patriots. Payton said whether he sits on the bench now is strictly a performance-based decision. Wilson turned the ball over five times as the Broncos went 1-3 in their last four games.
Payton, who spoke earlier Friday, said he was “not privy” to any discussions the team had with Wilson when the veteran quarterback was approached about amending his contract.
“I deal with the football,” Payton said. “… That's something (general manager) George (Patton) and the front office (handle) are.” I'm not involved in any of that. Sure, I'm involved in a lot, but… there's going to be a time and a place at the end of the season where you might have some questions, and someone else will be able to answer them. “My focus was on winning.”
Payton reiterated his position earlier in the week that benching Wilson is a uniquely football-based decision.
“I know how some of this is written, but this decision is exactly what I think gives us a chance to win eighth place. Now, it's a tough decision, but there's no other decision — for me and where I am.” My career, all I care about is getting another win. There will be no other reasons. Ross has had a great week. He handled the matter professionally.”
Wilson said he still hopes to stay with Denver after this season, but acknowledged his future may be elsewhere.
“At the end of the day, I love this game,” Wilson said.
(Photo: Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
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