Russell Wilson says he was ‘disappointed’ Denver Broncos benched him for refusing contract change


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CNN  — 

Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson says he was “disappointed and surprised” when head coach Sean Payton told him he would be benched for the team’s final two games of the NFL regular season.

“I felt like we were doing something special and rolling,” said Wilson, speaking on Friday for the first time with the media since being benched.

“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,” added the 35 year-old quarterback.

Wilson signed a five-year extension worth a reported $245 million in September 2022, which is set to kick in next season.

According to ESPN, Wilson is “guaranteed $39 million in 2024 whether he is on the team or not,” as well as “another $37 million (his 2025 salary) guaranteed if he could not pass a physical on the fifth day of the new league year in March.”

In his interview with media on Friday, Wilson said he was approached by the team after the Broncos’ Week 8 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs and told if he didn’t move back his injury guarantee in his contract that 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,” said Wilson.

“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.”

According to Wilson, the NFL Players’ Association (NFLPA) and NFL also “got involved … at some point.”

“I came here to play,” added Wilson. “I knew it was going to be a process … I signed a seven-year deal … for us to go and play hard and that’s my goal.”

The NFL declined comment when contacted by CNN. The NFLPA and the Broncos have also been approached for comment regarding Wilson’s contract.

A healthy Wilson would provide the Broncos with greater flexibility in how it chooses to approach the quarterback’s future with the team given an injury to the 35 year-old in the regular season’s concluding weeks could limit the franchise’s options.

Dec 16, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton looks at the scoreboard in the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

‘Hard decision’

Meanwhile, Broncos head coach Sean Payton addressed the media on Friday but shied away from answering questions about the situation.

“I’m handling football,” Payton told reporters. “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.

“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,” added Payton.

“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.”

Previously, Payton had downplayed the economic reasonings behind Wilson’s benching.

“I understand all the speculation and everything that surrounds a move like that,” said Payton.

“I can tell you we’re desperately trying to win. Sure, in our game today there are economics and all those other things, but the No. 1 push behind this — and it’s a decision I’m making — is to get a spark offensively.”

Nine-time Pro Bowler Wilson, who is currently in his 12th season in the league, has helped lead the Broncos to a 7-8 record while throwing for 3,070 yards, 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season.

Wilson was traded to the Broncos before the 2022 season after spending his first 10 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. Wilson helped lead Seattle to a Super Bowl XLVIII victory in 2014.

The Broncos play the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday and then the Las Vegas Raiders on January 7, 2024, but the chances of Denver making the playoffs are slim.

Russell Wilson says he was ‘disappointed’ Denver Broncos benched him for refusing contract change

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