It was the first morning of September, but midsummer heat still seared the asphalt parking lot outside the players’ and coaches’ gated entrance to Broncos headquarters.
Being out as temperatures began to soar wasn’t the uncomfortable part of the morning. Waiting for players to pass by as they went inside to hear the news of their unemployment, on the other hand … that was torturous.
Watching to see which players are to be left on the curb as the NFL bandwagon rolls away for another year is a painful annual exercise. It pales, of course, with what the players themselves endure, as well as the coaches who have to bring the devastating news of dreams at least temporarily destroyed.
Few players stop to talk with those of us in the laptop-and-notepad set. Who can blame them? If I’d just lost my job, the last thing I would do is want to answer a question or two. Some had the right idea; they came and went before any of us arrived with our tape recorders in tow.
Yet as one vehicle after another passes into the team’s sanctuary, there we are … waiting for the rare soundbite or insight into a player’s heart on this cruelest of summer days.
As the minutes pass, many of the players to be released scoot by behind tinted windows. A few politely wave, and I offer a wave or a tip of my Braves hat back. It’s the least I can do; they want to go, and I can’t blame them. I’d at least like the chance to thank them for their time, for granting an interview or two, for answering one of my verbosely-worded queries or being patient while I pursued a line of questioning they might not have wanted me to follow.
So this will have to do — to those of you who gave a few minutes for an interview, who shared your thoughts with me while you donned the orange and blue — thank you for letting us pass your thoughts and your stories on to Broncos fans.
But back to the moment at hand, and back to the asphalt.
“Why?” jokingly asks Nick Ferguson as he disembarks from his vehicle and wanders inside. Of course, Ferguson is familiar enough with a camera and a lav mic to know the answer to this. There’s nary a question he won’t answer, scarcely an issue he won’t ponder. He works in interviews and in front of a camera the way Van Gogh used oils and watercolors. One would even argue that a television studio is even more a home for the veteran safety than the football field; so strong is his camera presence and so compelling is his conversation.
As the morning progresses, another player stops to offer a comment.
“Scavengers!” bellowed the voice of Sam Adams from behind the wheel of a smoothly-purring SUV. He bore a sly smile, seeming to indicate that he understood our presence by the gate, even if the havoc-wreaking defensive tackle didn’t necessarily approve of it.
By the way, Sam, I prefer “buzzard” to “scavenger.” But you are right. I’ll be the first to admit it.
Finally, it was time to go. Media-relations director Paul Kirk informed us that the players who’d been let go had likely come and go. It was time to head back in the car and get back to work, to wait the official word that came down early Saturday evening.
And, fortunately, time for this most lamentable of days on the NFL calendar to wind to a merciful end.