DENVER — For a moment, John Elway got to be a former player again.
The undisputed greatest player in Broncos history was among the 34 players from the team’s top 100 introduced as part of Champ Bailey’s Ring of Fame ceremony Friday night outside the south side of Empower Field at Mile High.
But once Bailey pulled the cape off his Ring of Fame pillar, Elway returned to his role as team general manager fielding questions about his 1-4 Broncos.
As usual, he delivered a rather honest assessment about his team. Remember, it was during this Ring of Fame event two years ago that Elway said his slumping team “got a little bit soft.”
This time, Elway spoke about his team’s subconscious sense of doom.
“I think the bad thing about losing is you get in a situation where something bad happens in a game and you say, ‘here we go again,’’’ Elway said. “And that is a very tough thing to break. That’s what we’ve got to get out of. I think that’s hurt us a couple times. We won last week so we have to continue to stay positive with it and battle our way through it.’’
He doesn’t blame first-year Vic Fangio, who inherited a Broncos team coming off 5-11 and 6-10 seasons.
“I think he’s done great,’’ Elway said. “Obviously, it’s been tough but it’s been tough on everybody. He’s been a pillar and done a nice job and stayed the course and kept working hard at it. I think he’s done a nice job. It’s been tough for him, though.’’
Nor is Elway ready to give up this season by selling off his stars for future draft picks. The names most frequently mentioned are edge rusher Von Miller, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The NFL’s trade deadline is October 29, or the Tuesday after the Broncos play at Indianapolis in their eighth game of the season.
Trading Miller makes little sense because he has two years left on his contract and is still considered one of the league’s best defensive players, even if he is off to slow start in recording sacks.
Harris and Sanders are in the final years of their deals but there does not appear to be a young player ready to replace them.
“You guys bring all those names up,’’ Elway said. “I have not brought any of those names up. We’re trying to win football games. So no one from our side is on the trading block.”
Miller only has 2.0 sacks through five games, a pace of 6.4 through 16 games – about half of the 12.3 sacks he averaged through his first eight seasons.
“Ít’s frustrating for Von. He gets a lot of attention,’’ Elway said. “But he’ll keep working at it and stay after it. He’s still the same player he always has been. It’s just he needs a breakthrough and make those plays when he can.
“He’s made some big plays for us and he’ll continue to get more comfortable, but you know, you lose a guy like Bradley Chubb on the other side, it’s not going to help Von. But Von’s continuing to work hard at it.’’
Chubb suffered a season-ending ACL injury in the Broncos’ fourth game. A heartbreaking loss to be sure, but the biggest disappointments have been cornerback Bryce Callahan and right tackle Ja’Wuan James. They were expensive free agents who have contributed nothing because of injuries.
At least James is close to returning from the knee injury he suffered on the 10th offensive play of the season opener. Callahan hasn’t been a full practice participant yet this year, much less play in a game. He took a shot in his troublesome foot two weeks ago in hopes he can return and play in the second half of the season. But it’s hardly a guarantee he’ll return.
“It’s been frustrating for everybody including him,’’ Elway said. “It’s one of those things. We’ll see how this last thing (the shot) goes and see if he’ll get back this year or not.’’
Elway has this season and two more left on his contract. After constructing teams that won five division titles with two Super Bowl appearances and the Super Bowl 50 title in his first five seasons as GM, Elway has no plans of giving up his job until the job of returning the Broncos to prominence is done.
“I don’t like to lose,’’ he said. “It’s not enjoyable. But all we can do is continue to work. There’s not a whole lot we can do now except try to play better.’’
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