ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In an already disappointing season from top to bottom for the Denver Broncos, coach Vance Joseph and cornerback Bradley Roby each responded Wednesday to comments made by ESPN analyst Jason Witten during the broadcast of Monday night’s 27-14 loss at the Oakland Raiders.
Witten had said Roby should have been pulled from the game in the closing minutes because “you never quit in the NFL.” ESPN’s Booger McFarland had added, “That’s embarrassing.”
With 2 minutes, 12 seconds remaining in the game, Raiders running back Doug Martin went through the middle of the Broncos’ defense for a 12-yard gain before he was tackled by defensive lineman Shelby Harris. After the two-minute warning, when the broadcast resumed following a commercial break, Witten used the Telestrator to circle the Broncos’ right cornerback on a replay and illustrate how Roby had stopped moving before Martin had been tackled.
“That last run there … keep an eye on Roby,” Witten said. “It’s a running play, watch this effort; the ball hits inside, he just stops, the play is still going, it cannot happen. Vance Joseph, I would pull him out because you never quit in the NFL.”
“That’s embarrassing,” McFarland added. “He’s a young guy who’s had issues.”
After Wednesday’s practice, Joseph was asked about Witten’s comments.
“I didn’t see that,” Joseph said. “Our team has maxed out every game we’ve played; we haven’t won enough games, obviously, but how we play, how hard we play, it’s no issue.
“I love our ex-players; I love they’re involved with the game. But they all forget, we could find plenty of tape with all the ex-players doing media they’ve had issues … I have not questioned our guys [about their effort].”
Roby, who will be an unrestricted free agent in March, said he did make a mistake in thinking the play in question was over, but he took umbrage to being labeled a quitter on national television.
“I was like, wow, I can’t believe he went out of his way to do all that,” Roby said. “It’s unfortunate. I felt like he was reaching to say that because it was the end of the game. For him to characterize me as a quitter, quitting on my team, I feel like that’s the most disrespectful thing you can say in a team sport.
“For him to say that on one play — it was really a mistake, I thought the play was over, I was wrong. But for him to say that, it just made me mad. There are kids I go see at the children’s hospital who have cancer, who are paralyzed, and I tell them don’t quit … The game was over … I just felt like it was kind of unnecessary. On the play, it did look like I stopped, so I understand where he’s coming from, but it was unnecessary.”
Roby played Monday’s game with several stitches in his mouth for an injury he suffered the week before against the Cleveland Browns.
Roby also said he believed some of the criticism from Witten stems from a 42-17 Broncos victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2 last season, when Witten was still playing tight end for the Cowboys.
Witten had 10 receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown in that game.
“I think he might be mad I talked a little trash to him when they came up here and played last year; maybe he remembers me from that,” Roby said of Witten. “I don’t know. I sacrifice so much. I still have stitches in my mouth from the week before when I had a hole in my face, and I still kept playing.
“I think it’s just something he has to learn; it’s his first year, I believe, commentating. He still has to learn the power that he had, the perception. I really wasn’t going to say anything about it, but I just know people listen, people believe stuff like that. I just think he had to pick and choose — he has to have more evidence before you characterize somebody like that.”
“I don’t fault him; I’m not mad about it. I just want to defend myself,” Roby added. “Because I don’t want people thinking a certain way about me because I made a mistake.”