Broncos help fans heal from tragedy


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - The Denver Broncos reported to training camp Wednesday hoping to lift the spirits of a community in mourning over the movie theater massacre in neighboring Aurora.

Several players visited hospitalized survivors and medical personnel in the days after a gunman in full body armor opened fire during the midnight premiere of the new Batman movie, leaving 12 dead and 58 injured.

Coach John Fox said the Broncos will do what they can to provide a measure of comfort to a heavy-hearted community, a role he's familiar with from his time with the New York Giants during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"Well, we're going to do our absolute best, and we understand the responsibility that comes with being in the Broncos organization," Fox said. "This region, city, state has great passion for the team, there's no doubt. I think our players will feel that responsibility, and it's something that we'll talk about most definitely later today in our team meeting.

"I was in New York when 9-11 occurred, and a lot of the victims really looked to us and (now, others) will look to us here in Denver, for some uplifting times."

Quarterback Peyton Manning called eight of the wounded Sunday and Monday, and 12 of his teammates, decked out in their orange jerseys, visited hospitalized patients and those who were treating them.

Some of those same players had gathered a few weeks ago to honor the firefighters who were battling Colorado's deadly wildfires that destroyed hundreds of homes.

"Well, for some negative things that do happen to occur, our guys do a whole lot of good, and that was part of that, whether it was the fires or this recent tragedy," Fox said. "I'm very proud of them. They were out there, they want to give back and they want to somehow lift the spirits."

Among the players making visits to hospitals in recent days was Pro Bowl pass rusher Elvis Dumervil, who was arrested this month on suspicion of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon following a traffic dispute in Miami where a witness said he flashed a gun in his waistband during a confrontation with a female driver.

Dumervil met with the media Wednesday but said he couldn't talk about his case.

"I know you guys have a lot of questions, but out of respect for the investigation, there's not much I can say," he said.

Whether or not charges are filed, Dumervil could find himself subject to a suspension by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. He said he hasn't heard from the commissioner.

"Well, I think you're obviously disappointed any time you're involved in a situation like that as an organization," Fox said. "Like any situation you're involved in, you have to gather the information, find out to the best you can the facts and then let the process run itself and the truth eventually comes out."

The Broncos already are preparing for the extended absence of linebacker D.J. Williams, their top tackler, who is facing a six-game drug suspension and a drunken-driving trial next month that could sideline him even longer.

"I think it weighs a little bit heavier on the fans' minds because looking at those guys, they're starters, they are key players," cornerback Tracy Porter said. "It weighs on our minds, too. But we also have the confidence in the guys that back them up at the positions."

The Broncos' first practice is this morning, and it'll be the first chance for the public to get a glimpse of Manning in orange and blue.

He joined the Broncos in March after 14 seasons in Indianapolis. The Colts released him after he missed all of last year with a nerve injury in his neck that caused weakness in his throwing arm. They replaced him with No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Luck.

The league's only four-time Most Valuable Player has looked good in offseason workouts, but questions facing him and the Broncos are how he'll hold up at age 36 and whether he'll be the same player he was before he got hurt and needed four neck operations, including a fusion.

"Peyton's done everything humanly possible, both physically and mentally, to get ready for this," Fox said. "I know he's excited, the rest of the team's excited. He's a tremendous competitor, and we're very blessed to have him."

 

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