Sports

Broncos’ Hackett dispels ‘gossip’ around Wilson

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — With each passing loss for the Denver Broncos — and there have been seven in the past eight games — there is another round of stories from far and wide about quarterback Russell Wilson‘s disappointing season and the impact that has had on the relationships with his teammates.

And while his coach and many of his teammates disputed the criticism Wednesday, they say they know it’ll keep coming until there are more wins.

“To me, it’s all gossip,” Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said in response to the critiques leveled at Wilson, including queries about whether he has lost the locker room. “We have a fantastic locker room. Look at a guy like Russ — I’ve never seen anybody work so hard, never seen anybody try to embrace a team like he has … Russ is awesome, and we need just to do better as a team and all that stuff is what it is. I love Russ.”

“That’s just hilarious, in my opinion. That’s funny, because I don’t think it’s true,” added guard Dalton Risner. “I know it’s not true … I feel like all year he can’t catch a break and people are making up rumors about him — whether he’s not a good teammate or he’s lost the locker room or whatever it is. A lot of is so outlandish to me.”

The latest round of noise comes in the wake of a brief sideline blowup between Wilson and defensive tackle Mike Purcell that occurred early in the fourth quarter of Denver’s loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

Both Purcell and Wilson addressed the exchange — caught on camera during the broadcast — after the game. Purcell referred to it as “just frustration,” while Wilson said, “Mike and I are on the same page.” The two had a relaxed chat at the end of Wednesday’s practice.

Wilson — and the five-year, $245 million contract extension he signed just before the season — has been the flashpoint for criticism of the team’s staggering offense, almost from the season-opening loss in Seattle. Everything from his travel schedule to his social calendar and a decided lack of touchdowns has been critiqued.

The Broncos are last in the league in scoring at 14.3 points per game, last in the league in the red zone and 30th in the league on third down. Wilson has thrown just eight touchdown passes in his 10 starts — he missed one game because of injury — and is on pace for a career-low single-season total.

His 20 touchdown passes in 2014, his third year in the league, represent his single-season low.

“I think that, first of all, everybody wants to win, we all want to win,” Wilson said after Wednesday’s practice. “I’ve got great relationships in that locker room, so whoever is trying to tear it down, you can’t.”

“I’ll say Russ is an amazing leader,” said safety Justin Simmons. “He’s an amazing teammate. … Russ has been nothing but great — obviously, it hasn’t been the season any of us wanted.”

With a seventh consecutive playoff miss on the horizon — the team’s longest playoff drought since 1970-1976 — and the teeth of the schedule still ahead, Hackett said wins will likely be the only thing that ultimately quiets things down for all involved.

“When you sign up for this profession … quarterback, certain coaches, certain players, if you lose, you’re going to get criticism,” Hackett said. “The idea is you’ve got to keep your head down, keep working.”

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