ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos have suspended two executives who are facing drunken driving charges.
Director of player personnel Matt Russell was suspended indefinitely without pay Monday, and director of pro personnel Tom Heckert was suspended for a month without pay.
Both will be provided with confidential treatment and counseling services by the team and will have to comply with those programs before being allowed to return to work, team president Joe Ellis said.
Executive vice president John Elway’s top two advisers were arrested and jailed on suspicion of drunken driving in separates incidents within a month of each other, giving the team its biggest black eye since a videotape scandal cost Josh McDaniels his job in 2010.
The fallout from the executives’ DUI arrests could very well affect the Broncos on the field as they’ll be without their top two personnel men at a time when player evaluations are paramount.
Elway told The Associated Press that other members of the personnel department “will have to step up and we’ll look at adding possibly somebody else from outside to pick up the slack.”
The Broncos issued the penalties Monday after consulting with the NFL commissioner’s office, which informed them it has no plans to impose additional discipline.
However, both men still have possible legal ramifications which could affect their future employment with the Broncos, who said they would monitor the legal proceedings in “determining their future standing with the organization.”
Russell, Elway’s right-hand man, was arrested July 6 while celebrating his 40th birthday. He hit two vehicles, including a police SUV in Breckenridge, injuring an officer, and registered a 0.246 percent breath alcohol content, three times the legal threshold for a DUI violation in Colorado, according to the arrest affidavit.
Heckert’s blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.162 percent upon his release seven hours after his June 11 arrest in Parker, according to a Douglas County Sheriff’s Office report.
Heckert, who turns 46 this week, is a former general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles and Browns. He was arrested 36 days after the Broncos hired him.
“When I was named to this position two years ago, I spoke of the role this organization has in the community. We all have an individual responsibility to represent this team in the appropriate manner at all times,” Elway said in a statement. “It’s particularly disappointing that two members of my staff acted so irresponsibly. Simply put, it’s unacceptable and inexcusable.
“I was extremely concerned when Tom Heckert notified me of his arrest in June. We talked about it as a staff, reinforced the intolerable nature of his actions and notified the league as we began the disciplinary process. To hear of Matt Russell’s incident last week was especially disturbing considering the timing and severity of those allegations.
“While Matt and Tom have apologized and taken accountability, it’s most important they take advantage of whatever help they need. We will learn from this and take the necessary action as we move forward in a positive way.”
The Broncos kept Heckert’s arrest quiet until the AP reported it on July 9, a day after Russell apologized for his arrest. The revelation of another Broncos executive facing DUI charges led the organization to acknowledge a “disturbing pattern of irresponsible behavior” that it vowed to clean up.
The Denver Post on Monday reported that a search of state records revealed backup offensive lineman Quentin Saulsberry was arrested May 19 in Arapahoe County on suspicion of drunken driving.