Former Denver Broncos center Tom Nalen has criticized the team for not publicly acknowledging until Tuesday, July 9, that its director of pro personnel, Tom Heckert, was arrested for drunk driving on June 11. Via Twitter, Nalen called the Broncos “cowards” because the team knew about the DUI charge but only acknowledged it after the Associated Press reported it, writes Reuters in an article appearing in the Chicago Tribune.
In one of several dozen tweets Nalen posted about the topic on Wednesday, he wrote that if the Bronco management had been “proactive” in dealing with Heckert, then maybe Matt Russell would not have been driving while intoxicated. As this blog reported yesterday, Russell, the Broncos’s director of player personnel, was arrested last weekend for DUI and other charges after his vehicle hit two cars in two different towns, including a police car.
As the Associated Press writes in “APNewsBreak: Tom Heckert is second Denver Broncos executive facing drunken driving charges” appearing in The Washington Post:
About an hour after The Associated Press first reported Heckert’s arrest, the Broncos released a statement saying, ‘We were made aware of the matter involving Tom Heckert immediately after it occurred and promptly notified the league office. His arrest is extremely upsetting, and this situation is being handled internally as well as in coordination with NFL policies.’
‘Tom’s actions are obviously part of a disturbing pattern of irresponsible behavior that we are aggressively addressing within our organization,’ the statement said. ‘One member of the Broncos arrested for driving under the influence is one too many. This type of behavior puts innocent people at risk and cannot be tolerated. While our team and league supply plenty of resources to prevent these situations, it is clear we need to do better.
‘We are thoroughly reviewing the procedures we have in place and will do whatever it takes to enhance their effectiveness going forward.’
Heckert, who joined the Broncos organization on May 7, apologized, as AP reports:
‘I am extremely disappointed that in my short time with the Broncos I have made such a serious mistake. My actions last month have brought embarrassment to the organization, and I fully understand the consequences that are involved. I am truly sorry and take complete responsibility for this situation,’ Heckert said. ‘Although I have let many people down, I will learn from this and work toward regaining the trust that I have lost.’
Mark Kiszla writes in The Denver Post that every move the Broncos make affects “the heart of Denver.” He adds that the team needs to do more than simply say they are sorry. He quotes Broncos president Joe Ellis, who told him that he expects the discipline will be severe. There will be demands that the team fire both Heckert and Russell, Kisla writes.
He adds that “first and foremost” it is a safety problem, and that the Broncos are lucky that no one was killed in these two DUI cases. “The Broncos have a drinking problem…. [and] cannot get back on the road to the Super Bowl until they deal with it,” Kisla writes.