After beating Super Bowl champs: change contract or get benched
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The Denver Broncos gave Russell Wilson an ultimatum, according to the quarterback: Either alter his contract in regards to his injury guarantee or face a benching. That ultimately led to Sean Payton’s announcement Wednesday that the franchise decided to bench Wilson in favor of Jarrett Stidham, who’ll start under center for Denver as it takes on the Chargers on Sunday.
Wilson spoke to reporters about the situation Friday and revealed that the initial conversations regarding a possible benching came back during the team’s Week 9 bye week and stemmed from his contract. Specifically, he was approached “the Monday or Tuesday” after he and the Broncos defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8 and was told that if he did not adjust his $37 million guarantee, he would be benched.
“They definitely told me I was going to be benched and all that,” Wilson said, via ESPN. “That whole bye week I didn’t know what was going to be the case, I was going to be ready to play, I wanted to go to Buffalo and beat Buffalo (Nov. 13). … I wasn’t going to remove the injury guarantee. This game is such a physical game, I’ve played 12 years and all that. I want to be able to play, I want to be able to help this team win. … I know every time I step on the field it’s a physical game. I never play timid, I never play scared.”
Within his five-year, $242.6 million contract he signed with the Broncos in 2022, Wilson is guaranteed $39 million in 2024. However, if he were unable to pass a physical on the fifth day of the new league year this coming March, he would be owed another $37 million. That is what the Broncos are allegedly trying to avoid paying, and keeping Wilson off the field and out of harm’s way over the next two weeks is the best way to ensure he passes that physical.
As for Denver’s point of view, head coach Sean Payton said the decision was based “on winning” and “to get a spark offensively.”
Wilson noted that the NFL and NFLPA “got involved,” and he ended up remaining the starter for the next few weeks, notching wins over the Bills, Vikings and Browns in the process.
“We got to 3-5, beat the Chiefs … (it) definitely hurt, a low blow,” Wilson said of the situation. “Those are good teams, we did it, we fought. It was challenging (to keep playing). It’s challenging, at the same time I’ve got a job to do … at the end of the day you put your head down and stay focused.”
Wilson went on to say that he is hopeful that he still has a future with the franchise and helps them win a championship going forward. However, if this benching is a precursor to his departure and he is forced to play elsewhere, he is “prepared to do that somewhere else.”