Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson said he was “disappointed” and “surprised” when coach Sean Payton told him this week he would be benched for the season’s final two games.
Wilson, speaking 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 took him aback in large part because the Broncos (7-8) remain in the playoff hunt entering Week 17’s 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 rolling,” Wilson said. “Obviously, we’ve had some tough games, some tough close ones, but we’ve still got a chance. At the end of the day, what God’s got for me, I’m going to keep trusting in him. I’m going to keep putting my best foot forward every day and be as professional as I can be, no matter what the circumstances are. I learned that a long time ago.”
Wilson said he was approached by Denver after its Week 8 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs and told if he didn’t move back an injury guarantee in his contract, he’d be benched.
“We beat the Chiefs. They came up 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, that I’d be benched for the rest of the year. … I was definitely disappointed about it.”
Wilson confirmed reports that the NFLPA was notified about the Broncos’ request.
“I wasn’t going to take away injury guarantees,” he said. “This game is such a physical game. I’ve played for 12 years and that matters to me.”
The Broncos ultimately did not bench Wilson after the bye week. He started the next seven games, the last of which was Sunday’s 26-23 loss to the New England Patriots. That he’s being benched now, Payton has said, is strictly a performance-based decision. Wilson has turned the ball over five times as the Broncos have gone 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 adjusting his contract.
“I’m handling football,” Payton said. “… That’s something (general manager) George (Paton) and the front office (handle). I’m not involved in any of that. Certainly, I’m involved in a lot, but … There will be a time and place at the end of the season where some of the questions you might have, someone else will be able to answer. My focus has been on winning.”
Payton reiterated his stance from earlier in the week that benching Wilson is a singularly football-based decision.
“I know how some of this has been written, but this decision is strictly what I believe gives us a chance for win No. 8. Now, it’s a hard decision, but there’s no other — for me and where I’m at in my career, that’s all I’m interested in is getting another win. There would be no other reasons. Russ has had a great week. He’s handled it well professionally.”
Wilson said he still hopes to remain with Denver after this season, but he conceded 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)