KUSA—In a move signaling a vote of confidence in their rookie safeties, the Denver Broncos released veteran Shiloh Keo on Saturday.
Keo, a veteran backup strong safety, had been about to finish his two-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy that stemmed from his DUI charge in mid-February.
The move, first reported by 9NEWS, was slightly surprising because the Broncos’ only back up safeties to starters T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart are rookies Justin Simmons and Will Parks.
Parks didn’t take any defensive snaps in the season opener last week against Carolina. Simmons played 29 defensive snaps and didn’t get flattering reviews from head coach Gary Kubiak or defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Both said Simmons played like a rookie.
“The preseason games are a lot different than from the first regular-season game,’’ said Simmons, a third-round draft pick from Boston College. “There are a lot of things I think I did well and a lot of things I can improve on.’’
Keo had previously played for Kubiak and Phillips with the Houston Texans from 2011-13, but he had been out of football for almost two years when he signed with the Kubiak/Phillips’ coached Broncos last December.
Keo, 28, played in the final four regular-season games and two more in the postseason. He recovered an onside kick to seal the Broncos’ 20-18 victory against New England in the AFC Championship Game.
Despite his DUI charge, the Broncos signed Keo back to their team and he played extensively with them through the offseason, training camp and preseason. He was terrific in the final preseason game at Arizona, albeit in a game played by second and third stringers.
The timing of Keo's release -- before the Broncos’ game Sunday against Indianapolis instead of waiting until the day -- suggests one, the Broncos didn't want to get stuck with any pro-rated salary or termination pay for the vested veteran if they waited to release him on Monday; two, the Broncos are confident they could re-sign Keo if one of their players did get banged up against the Colts; and three, the team is committed to enduring the growing pains of their talented rookies.
Simmons is an intelligent player but the smartest of rookies need time before they can quickly pick up offensive keys. Paradoxically, safeties have to reach a point where reading the keys becomes second nature and they can play without thinking, which means playing faster.
“All things that come with repetition and watching film and years of experience,’’ Simmons said. “It’s all stuff I can improve on. It has nothing to do with effort or technique, so it’s all positives.’’
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