- Associated Press - Monday, July 15, 2013

ENGLEWOOD, COLO. (AP) - The Denver Broncos came down hard on their two executives facing drunken driving charges, suspending them without pay and making it clear they must straighten out their lives if they want to work in the NFL again.

Director of player personnel Matt Russell was suspended indefinitely, and director of pro personnel Tom Heckert was suspended for a month.

Team president Joe Ellis said both men expressed remorse. But “this in no way excuses their conduct,” Ellis said.

Russell and Heckert will be provided with confidential treatment, rehabilitation and counseling services and must comply with these programs before they’re allowed to return to work, Ellis said.


While the two “will be punished and held accountable, our first priority is their health and well-being. We must ensure they receive any care they need and support them however possible,” Ellis said.

While some critics were calling for the executives’ ouster, Ellis emphasized, “We’re not inclined to tear down lives even further. We’re inclined to help people rebuild themselves.”

The Broncos issued the penalties Monday after consulting with the NFL commissioner’s office, which informed them it has no plans to impose additional discipline.

However, both men still face legal ramifications for their actions that could affect their future employment with the Broncos, who said they “will give careful consideration to the legal proceedings in determining their future standing with the organization.”

Executive vice president John Elway’s top two advisers were arrested and jailed on suspicion of drunken driving in separate incidents within a month of each other this summer, resulting in the biggest black eye for the organization since a videotape scandal cost former coach Josh McDaniels his job in 2010.

Elway was brought on board after McDaniels’ firing, and the Hall of Fame quarterback who led Denver to five Super Bowls and two championships quickly restored its reputation _ until the trouble for his top two lieutenants this offseason.

“When I was named to this position two years ago, I spoke of the role this organization has in the community. We all have an individual responsibility to represent this team in the appropriate manner at all times,” Elway said. “It’s particularly disappointing that two members of my staff acted so irresponsibly. Simply put, it’s unacceptable and inexcusable.”

“I was extremely concerned when Tom Heckert notified me of his arrest in June. We talked about it as a staff, reinforced the intolerable nature of his actions and notified the league as we began the disciplinary process. To hear of Matt Russell’s incident last week was especially disturbing considering the timing and severity of those allegations,” Elway added.

“While Matt and Tom have apologized and taken accountability, it’s most important they take advantage of whatever help they need. We will learn from this and take the necessary action as we move forward in a positive way.”

The punishment reflected a mixture of team owner Pat Bowlen’s indignation and compassion.

“We handed down what we believe is significant discipline and at the same time, the two gentlemen have not been fired,” Ellis said. “They can get the proper help and counseling and education that’s necessary and the hope is they can improve their lives and rebuild their lives.”

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