Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson said he was “disappointed” and “surprised” when coach Sean Payton announced this week that he would be benched for the final two games of the season.
Wilson, who spoke Friday for the first time since Payton announced Jared Stidham would be the team's starting quarterback for the remainder of the season, said the news came as a major shock to him as the Broncos (7-8) enter the week in the playoff hunt. 17 matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers, where Wilson will be the No. 2 quarterback.
“I felt like we were rolling with something special,” Wilson said. “Obviously, we've had some tough games, some tough close ones, but we've still got a chance. At the end of the day, whatever God has in store for me, I'm just going to trust Him. I'm going to put my best foot forward every day and be as professional as I can no matter the circumstances. Going. I learned that a long time ago.”
Wilson said Denver approached him after a Week 8 win over the Kansas City Chiefs and said he would be benched if he didn't opt out of the injury guarantee in his contract.
“We beat the Chiefs. At the beginning of the bye week – Monday or Tuesday – they came to me and told me that if I didn't change my contract, my injury was guaranteed and I'd be benched for the rest of the year. … I'm definitely disappointed in that.
Wilson confirmed reports that the NFLPA had been notified of the Broncos' request.
“I'm not going to take the injury guarantee,” he said. “This game is a physical game. I've been playing for 12 years and that's important to me.
The Broncos didn't bench Wilson after the bye week. He started the next seven games, including Sunday's 26-23 loss to the New England Patriots. Payton has said his benching is strictly a performance-based decision. Wilson turned the ball over five times as the Broncos went 1-3 in their last four games.
Payton, speaking earlier Friday, said he was “not privy to” any discussions the team had with Wilson when he approached the veteran quarterback about adjusting his contract.
“I handle the football,” Payton said. “… That's something (general manager) George (Patton) and the front office (Handle). I'm not involved in any of that. Sure, I'm involved in a lot of things, but … there will be a time and place at the end of the season where someone else can answer some of the questions you may have. My focus was on winning,” he said.
Payton reiterated his stance from earlier in the week that benching Wilson was a purely football-based decision.
“I know how some of this is written, but I believe this result gives us a chance for win No. 8. Now, it's a tough decision, but nothing else – I'm just happy with where I'm at and my career, to get another win.” Interest is there. No other reasons. Russ had a great week. He handled it professionally.
Wilson said he hopes to stay with Denver after this season, but he acknowledged his future may lie elsewhere.
“At the end of the day, I love this game,” Wilson said.
(Photo: Andy Cross/Media News Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)