In 2012, I started a new chapter of my NFL career with the Denver Broncos after an amazing 4-year experience as a backup quarterback for the Chicago Bears. The Broncos had just signed Peyton Manning and were looking to secure some depth behind him being that he was just coming off a long rehab and recovery from a serious neck surgery. I agreed to a 2-year deal after being told the plan for the backup quarterback position.
You see, the plan was to sign two veteran QBs with relatively similar experience, let us battle it out, and keep the winner as Peyton’s backup for a couple of years. It wasn’t the ideal situation, as only a year prior to that I felt I would land a decent contract somewhere with a nice signing bonus. However, after four lackluster starts in the previous season with the Bears, I honestly hadn’t earned it. I looked at this new opportunity as a fresh start with a great organization and a talented team. I also really wanted to play alongside Peyton and was confident in beating out the other vets who were on the market. So, I signed the 2-year deal worth $3 million (none guaranteed). $1.25 million the first year, with a $250k bonus, if I made the opening day roster (remember this detail for later in the story). About two months later, there was still not a veteran QB signed, and the draft was approaching. On draft day, the Broncos drafted QB Brock Osweiler in the 2nd round. I was obviously a little skeptical after this move and kind of pissed off as this was “not what I signed up for” (literally). I got over it quickly however (because…what else was I going to do really??) and was reassured that the new plan was to compete with Brock for the backup spot and potentially keep 3 QBs as extra insurance for Peyton.
After a decent off-season and training camp performance, I made it through cuts and seemingly the organization was sticking to the plan. I was also pumped because I was about to collect a $250k check. We went through the normal week of game preparation and there we were on Saturday having our walk-through with that “hay is in the barn” feeling. With my bags packed and ready to drive over to the team hotel, I walked off the practice field feeling good. Then the team’s “grim reaper” walked up (this is the person you did not want to see around this time of year because that usually means you were getting cut). He said, “Hey Coach Fox wants to see you up in his office.” My heart dropped, and my stomach hopped up in my throat. All kinds of thoughts flooded into my head… ”Was all this for nothing?…There goes my $250k!…Am I going to get on with another team?…Are they doing this just to not have to pay my $250k because that would be a BS move??”
I walked into coach Fox’s office and sat in the chair with him and another team executive. They promised that this was just for the weekend, and they still wanted me on the team but they also needed to keep another player and felt that he was going to get plucked off the practice squad if they didn’t make this move. (So I guess I was the safest player to cut without fear of immediately getting picked up.) Then we walked over to John Elway’s office and he apologized for the timing and then he said something that SHOCKED me and went totally against the NFL’s cutthroat reputation when he said that they were going to go ahead and still honor my $250k bonus. I actually thanked him and went home with a little more confidence that they were going to actually re-sign me. It was a weekend full of anxiety and mixed emotions, to say the least, as I still had extreme doubts that they were going to stick true to their word. On Monday, I arrived at the time they had said to be there and re-signed my contract, including the bonus. To this day, this is still one of the most stand-up things I experienced during my time in the NFL.