The Broncos apologized to disgruntled WR Brandon Marshall this week for an incident involving their public relations staff, according to league and team sources — another unusual event in what has been a trying offseason between the sides.
Broncos chief operating officer Joe Ellis apologized to Marshall on behalf of the organization after a junior member of the team’s public relations staff instructed players Friday on what to say after the preseason game against the 49ers that night in San Francisco, according to sources. The public relations staffer specifically urged players not to express too much joy or emotion if questioned by the media about Marshall’s acquittal on battery charges earlier that day in a Georgia courtroom, the sources said.
Marshall, who has been seeking a trade, already had trust issues with the Broncos, clashing over his contract (he would like an extension beyond the year remaining on his rookie deal) and the team’s treatment of his hip injury, and this incident only deepened that chasm, according to sources.
Marshall, 25, was accompanied by lawyer Harvey Steinberg at the face-to-face meeting with Ellis and believes the “coaching” being done by the public relations staffer was in fact a directive from upper management, according to league sources. Broncos sources rebuffed that notion and attributed the incident to the public relations staffer being “overzealous” and acting on his own.
Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Brian Xanders had no knowledge of the actions of the public relations employee until learning about it after the fact, according to the team. Both Bowlen and McDaniels expressed their happiness for Marshall in public remarks made Friday night. Marshall and his agent, Kennard McGuire, declined to comment.
Marshall has performed at a Pro Bowl level, but he has endured several off-field legal issues. The Broncos have been unwilling to re-do his contract to this point and, barring an extension to the collective bargaining agreement, could retain his rights with a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent in 2010, a scenario in which Marshall would lose a chance at unrestricted free agency. The team hasn’t shopped Marshall to this point.
Marshall missed much of the offseason because of his recovery from hip surgery and skipped Denver’s minicamp. He missed two weeks of training-camp practice as well, but he returned to the field Sunday.
The Broncos have had a difficult first few months under their new regime after coach Mike Shanahan was fired, suffering through a public spat with starting quarterback Jay Cutler, who eventually was traded to the Bears.
Marshall, who’s in his fourth year out of Central Florida, was a fourth-round draft pick by the Broncos in 2006. He caught a career-high 104 passes last season.