|01-02-2007, 11:07 PM||#1|
Draft Defense Early&Often
Join Date: Oct 2004
End of Season wrap up
I just pulled this off the wire. Just hard to read.
DENVER (AP) — A gunman's bullet sent the Denver Broncos reeling into an offseason of grief and uncertainty.
Instead of heading to the playoffs, the Broncos will fly to Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday to attend the funeral of cornerback Darrent Williams, killed in a drive-by shooting after attending a New Year's Eve party.
"We lost a good player. We lost a good man," safety Nick Ferguson said after a team meeting Tuesday turned into a remembrance for their fallen teammate. "Today wasn't about football or the offseason or the future. Today was to grieve and remember the good things about him."
Their disappointing season and even the blueprint for rectifying it were the farthest things from their minds.
"The offseason, Pro Bowl, accolades, none of that matters," Ferguson said. "What you thought was important, missing the playoffs, holds no value now because we lost somebody."
Williams was killed hours after the Broncos were eliminated from playoff contention with a 26-23 loss to San Francisco.
Teammates long marveled at the passion of the gregarious 24-year-old with the everlasting smile and endless zest who had just completed his second season as Denver's "other cornerback" opposite Champ Bailey.
"I think everybody feels about Darrent the way I do because I don't think he had a guy that wasn't his friend," a teary-eyed coach Mike Shanahan said. "That's just the way he lived life. He had a smile on his face.
"You never know why God takes somebody, but I know one thing," Shanahan said, his voice cracking, "he got somebody very special in Darrent."
Receiver Javon Walker was with Williams in the limousine when he was killed and was one of several Broncos who met with professional counselors the team brought in.
"He just went through a tragic experience," Shanahan said. "A lot of times when somebody has that happen to them, they wonder why it (wasn't them). That's just human nature and obviously the counselors are talking with him about that. It's a process. It takes some time."
The Broncos also will take some time recovering from this — not only emotionally, but practically.
Cornerback was one position where the Broncos appeared set for years to come.
Williams had 88 tackles and four interceptions in 2006, getting lots of action opposite Bailey, who was rarely challenged and still managed to lead the league with 10 interceptions and 11 takeaways.
"They try to take him out of the game, but he still finds a way to make plays every week," defensive back Domonique Foxworth said after the season finale. "We're not in the playoffs, but that's one person who deserves absolutely no blame."
The Broncos had sky-high expectations after reaching the AFC title game last year and those hopes were kindled by their 7-2 start. Then they lost seven of their last nine. Along the way, Jake Plummer lost his starting job to rookie Jay Cutler, who became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw two touchdown passes in each of his first four games.
Cutler's favorite targets were fellow rookies Tony Scheffler and Brandon Marshall, who teamed with newcomer Walker to give the Broncos a potent passing threat to go with running back Mike Bell, whose eight touchdowns were one shy of the NFL mark for an undrafted rookie.
Another rookie, Elvis Dumervil, led the team with 8½ sacks.
The veterans were another matter.
Age quickly caught up to Rod Smith, the Broncos' career receptions leader, who finished with fewer than 70 catches for the first time in a decade. The Broncos lost former No. 1 overall draft pick Courtney Brown to a knee injury in training camp and their pass rush never measured up. The loss of Ferguson and fellow safety Sam Brandon to knee injuries in the middle of the year helped turn their stingy defense into a sieve.
Denver's pass protection and run blocking went downhill when it lost left tackle Matt Lepsis to a season-ending leg injury early in the year. Tatum Bell topped 1,000 yards rushing, but his season was filled with injuries and inconsistency, raising doubts about his future in Denver.
The Broncos will have a private memorial for Williams on Wednesday and plan to honor him in some fashion next season.
"You can honor a fallen teammate in traditional ways with a moment of silence or a helmet sticker," Ferguson said. "But one way to remember him is to live life as he would have lived it, without a care in the world, not letting anybody or anything get you down or pull you down.
"We all should be so full of life like he was. That would be the best memorial of all."
Last edited by Atlas; 01-02-2007 at 11:12 PM..
|01-03-2007, 02:30 AM||#3|
Some days it's not worth
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Portland, OR