ENGLEWOOD—They were out there in pouring rain as stiffness and soreness had begun to set in to their bodies following a lengthy in-game delay.
The game was essentially finished, as evident by Tampa Bay’s white-flag surrender punt on Denver’s side of the field with 7 minutes, 22 seconds remaining. The Denver Broncos were trouncing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 27-7, but the game had to be finished, no matter the uncomfortable conditions.
Frustration was high and tempers were short. Before the teams finished their post-weather delay stretch, as CBS viewers were taking in the start of 60 Minutes, the two sides engaged in a pushing, shoving and cap bill flipping incident that involved a member of the Broncos’ equipment staff.
As players from both sides were stretching on opposite sides of the field, Broncos rookie Riley Dixon started warming up with Australian-style punts that travelled to the Bucs’ side of the field. The Bucs punter was kicking balls to the Broncos’ side of the field, too.
The Bucs, though, were a little more irritated. As a member of the Broncos’ equipment staff went back to catch Dixon’s punts, a few Bucs’ players started telling at him to get out. Next thing you know, some Broncos’ players said No. 78, who is listed as backup Tampa Bay offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus, walked over and knocked off the equipment guy’s Broncos’ ball cap.
Broncos safety Shiloh Keo, who was inactive because of a right knee injury, was standing along the sideline toward where the Broncos’ were stretching when he noticed the disturbance.
Keo ran over for support.
“Honestly, I thought they were being jerks,’’ Keo said of the Buc players. “Here’s a guy who was trying to help them out by giving them a heads up. I think they got sour and took it the wrong way. And every day we’re taught to fight for each other. To me it doesn’t matter if you’re a player, a coach or somebody who works in the organization, we’re going to look after our own.’’
Pregame skirmishes are not that uncommon in the NFL. There have already been a few this season. Now, add the Broncos and Bucs to the list. The difference this time is plenty of game had already been played. And the disagreements are usually contained to the players.
“If anything yell at the player who was kicking the ball and we can understand and handle it that way,’’ Keo said. “But you’re going to pick on somebody who’s out there who’s trying to keep everybody safe. He’s just doing what he’s told, who had nothing to do with the physical aspect of the game.
“I don’t know want happened when they went into the locker room (during the weather delay) but I’m sure there was some frustration. Because we were frustrated, too. We had to go out in that pouring rain and finish the game that in our minds was over already. To me it was unnecessary. And it ticked me off.’’
Two other inactive Bronco players, guard Connor McGovern and tight end Virgil Green, came over to help out. Bucs coaches and the officials finally noticed the skirmish and started to yelling to break it up. Order was restored. The Broncos hold on for the 27-7 win.
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