Frustrated. That’s the way I feel right now. It’s the feeling most of the players on this team have right now. It’s a really terrible feeling when you go out to a game and you’re playing as hard as you can and doing whatever the coaches ask of you for the entire game, and at the end you look up at the final score, and it’s 44-7. It’s obvious that we’re doing something wrong, or a lot of things wrong, because I feel like the talent on the team is undeniable. Us having games like we’ve had so far this season is inexcusable.
I do look forward to cleaning things up this week. One of the positive things about this season is there’s been a lot of trouble in our division so far, which puts us still in a great position to take over the lead of the AFC West, or at least go into a tie for the lead. It’s very encouraging, which is one of the things that keeps myself motivated and keeps this team motivated, knowing that whether we’re 7-1 at this point and the leader is 8-0, or whether we’re 3-5 and the leader is 4-4, it really doesn’t matter what the records are. The point is, we’re not that far behind.
We have a big game against Kansas City this week that we’re looking forward to. One of the things about sports, and football specifically, is that there’s not time for us to sulk after a loss, and there’s no time to celebrate after a win. Teams that are really excited after a big win or really down for the whole week after a big loss will never be ready for the game in the upcoming week. That’s the most important thing right now, I think, is putting that game behind us, but at the same time, learning from it, finding out who’s making mistakes and how we need to fix them. We’ve gotten to a point in this season where people need to ask questions of themselves and decide what they want to be as an individual player. Assuming that everyone improves individually, it will improve us as a team.
I don’t know what I expect this week out of practice and out of meetings. I don’t know what to expect as far as a mood from the coaches or a change in intensity or focus on anything else, but I definitely expect something different. I expect something different from everybody — coaches, players and staff around here — because what we’ve been doing so far this season hasn’t been working and it’s not Broncos football.
It’s very difficult to deal with the season we’ve had so far, and it’s something I’ve spoken on earlier in the year in my blog, but times like these are a true test of the character of an individual. The tougher the times get, the more difficult it becomes to have confidence in yourself and have confidence in your teammates and still be a positive person and a positive member of the team. It gets more and more difficult as our record gets more and more difficult to look at. I guess that’s one of my main focuses and one of the things that I can control. The most important thing to me right now is doing exactly what’s asked of me by the coaching staff, and also trying to keep a positive outlook on the season and project a positive attitude to my teammates.
I take a greater responsibility for some of the things that have gone on this season just because I view myself as one of the leaders of our team. I think we talked about before how we have our captains, which are John Lynch, Champ Bailey, Jay Cutler and Jason Elam, but I kind of see myself as one of the second-rung lieutenants of the team. I think a lot of responsibility falls on us and not only holding ourselves accountable, but having confidence in our own abilities and our place on this team to hold our teammates accountable. If you see someone who’s not practicing the way they should be, or you see somebody missing an assignment or doing something that they shouldn’t be, it’s our responsibility as leaders on the team to call them out. When someone else plays poorly, I take just as much responsibility as a team leader as if I was to play really poorly.
We had a meeting last week with the NFL Players Association. During that meeting we voted for our player reps, and I was voted the unanimous selection. I had nobody to run against, which I guess is a good feeling. It just speaks to how I’m viewed on the team as one of the leaders, or somebody that they can trust to represent them.
It’s difficult, obviously, dealing with the football part and the emotions at work, but it also gets difficult in your public life as a Broncos player when things aren’t going well. I’ve become more and more recognizable as a professional football player in this town, and I get noticed more often than I did before, which is pretty difficult now with things going the way they are and people asking questions that I don’t have answers for. I guess there’s just been a lot of negativity and frustration around this city for the people who love the Denver Broncos. I talked about testing your character before, but this is also a big test of character, when people come up to you and say something negative about your team or about a teammate or a friend of yours. It really takes a lot to bite your tongue and give the answer that you’re supposed to give. But we definitely do appreciate how passionate the fans are about their team.
During the radio show that I do for 950 The Fan on Monday nights, I got a call last night from a fan who said some pretty negative things about Jay Cutler. I got really upset, because not only was the guy completely wrong about Jay, it just frustrates me because he had no idea what he was talking about. He had no idea about football or what it takes to be a professional quarterback. Jay is an amazing young quarterback. He definitely needs to get better just like we all need to get better, but the plays that he’s been able to make in the three wins that we have this year are largely a credit to him. His three game-winning drives are more than some five-year quarterbacks can say that they’ve had. He makes tremendous decisions most of the time, and it just really got under my skin because I really like him and have been impressed with his abilities as a leader and as a football player. And just anytime anybody says something about my teammates or even about me, it upsets me a little bit, but I understand that the fans have their opinions and they like to be heard.
We’ve had a ton of injuries so far this season. A lot of people are pointing to those injuries as an explanation for our record, but we’re all professionals and nobody got to this league by being a bad football player. Coach Shanahan always stresses that the people that step in for an injured player, whether they’re a Pro Bowler or a future Hall of Famer, you’re expected to fill in and play as well as that player would have. Like I said, there’s no slouches in this league, and the people who step in for injured players, we all expect them to step up. That’s something that has stuck with me and something that Coach Shanahan said to me in my first start my rookie year against Jacksonville. I think Champ was hurt and I got my first start in Week 4. He said to me that I’m expected to play just as well as Champ would’ve played, and he said that at a team meeting in front of the whole team. Most of the time I’m pretty calm, and I don’t get nervous before games, but that night I really felt the pressure. But it became evident that everybody expected that throughout the course of the game. Nobody was overjoyed with the plays that I was making. They were proud of me, and said, “Good job,” but it’s just the nature of the Broncos organization. You’re expected to do these things and you’re expected to step up.
It’s just a trickle-down effect. It’s all about how Coach Shanahan projects his attitude. “Attitude reflects leadership” is one of Nick Ferguson’s favorite quotes, and that’s a perfect example of how the attitude of the team is reflected by his leadership. I would even go so far as to say that it goes all the way up to Mr. Bowlen. His attitude is the same. There’s high expectations here and the idea of a drop off, like how other teams might have a rebuilding season or a transition season, that’s just unacceptable here. That’s just the type of organization that I’m proud to be a part of. Despite what our record is now, we’re still in good position and we still have half a season to go. Everything that could’ve possibly gone wrong so far, has. To still be in position to take over the lead of our division has been a tremendous blessing. I think that’s one of the main motivations right now. Had we been in a division with a team that’s just blowing everybody out and is just head and shoulders above everybody else in the division, it would be even more difficult to find some motivation at this point.
We don’t do much scoreboard watching. At least personally, I don’t do much scoreboard watching during the game, but it’s definitely something that’s important after the game. Once our game’s over, it’s important to see what everybody else is doing. To see Kansas City and San Diego lose this week definitely made the flight home a little better for me. Just to know that we’re still in the race, despite all the mistakes that we’ve made, is great. I haven’t really been scoreboard watching, but once it gets toward the end of the season and the games are magnified, it’s impossible not to take a peek up there and see how other people are doing, because it directly affects you. I fully expect to be in a position at the end of the year where the scoreboard watching actually matters, like we were last year. Unfortunately, we lost the game to get us into the playoffs, but we were in a position where it really mattered what everybody was doing around the league. The year before that, my rookie year, we were 13-3 and we had to watch the scoreboard to make sure we got home-field advantage. So it definitely happens, but it doesn’t change what’s going on on the field. We still need to do our jobs, which is the most important thing. Watching the scoreboard doesn’t make anything happen that you want to happen. It doesn’t make the teams lose that you need to lose or the teams win that you need to win. It’s impossible not to be wondering and take a peek up there, but it’s important to stay focused on what the task at hand is.
We are not out of it, and that is the encouraging part. All Ready.