The penalties imposed Thursday on the Denver Broncos for violations of the league's rules regarding the disclosure of deferred compensation to players and the salary cap were the second sanctions against the team for similar infractions in less than three years.
In December 2001, the Broncos were fined $968,000 and lost a third-round pick in the 2002 draft for violations reportedly relating to $29 million in deferred payments to quarterback John Elway and running back Terrell Davis.
On Thursday, the league announced that the Broncos have been fined $950,000 and will lose a third-round selection in next year's draft for circumventing the salary cap between 1996 and '98. The penalties were set in an agreement between the league, the Players Association and the Broncos and resolve a case against the team brought before the sport's special master by the NFL's Management Council in January 2003, the league announced.
The penalties could be viewed as further vindication for Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, who has said in the past that Broncos owner Pat Bowlen should be suspended for salary cap violations. Davis has contended that the Broncos' circumvention of the salary cap helped them win the Super Bowl in the 1997 and '98 seasons.
Bowlen said in a written statement released Thursday by the Broncos that the club gained no competitive advantage from these cap violations.
"The non-disclosures brought to my attention by the National Football League took place in the mid-1990s," Bowlen said. "We cooperated with the NFL throughout their examination of the situation. While I regret that the circumstances took place, it is important to note that there was no competitive advantage gained by our organization, nor was there any involvement or responsibility by anyone who is currently with the Broncos in any capacity.
"We accept our penalty, will pay our fine as directed and from this point on put the issue behind us. Our entire organization is working toward a great season in 2004."
Harold Henderson, the chairman of the Management Council and the NFL's executive vice president of labor relations, confirmed in a written statement released by the league that "the individuals responsible for the violations are no longer with the team" and that the Broncos "have been cooperative throughout the investigation." Henderson did not directly address the issue of whether the club gained a competitive advantage but said the Broncos circumvented the cap to help pay for costs related to the construction of Invesco Field at Mile High.
"The investigation resulted in the discovery of undisclosed agreements between the club and Broncos players during the same period [1996-1998] pursuant to which various players agreed to defer certain compensation in exchange for a commitment to pay interest on the deferred amounts," Henderson said in the statement. "These agreements were plainly designed to help the club cope with seasonal cash flow problems exacerbated by the Broncos' need to fund front-end expenditures associated with development of the new stadium in Denver."
The Broncos reportedly were responsible for about $100 million of the approximately $401 million cost of Invesco Field at Mile High, which opened in 2001 and replaced Mile High Stadium as the team's home.
This set of violations, the league said, was related both to agreements between the team and "several" unidentified players to defer salary payments with interest and to a 1997 agreement between the club and a former player to not waive the player prior to a certain date. "Both types of agreements raised salary cap accounting issues," the league said.
Henderson said of the agreement not to waive the player before a certain date: "That commitment had the effect of converting the player's roster bonus into a guarantee, which affected the timing of the salary cap treatment of a portion of the bonus."
Henderson said the league considered the settlement terms "satisfactory to resolve the dispute."
An unidentified agent for a former Broncos player will donate $100,000 to charity without admitting wrongdoing in the case, according to the league.
Boldin Negotiations Begin
Agent Drew Rosenhaus met with Cardinals officials Thursday in Arizona to begin discussions on a new contract for wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
Boldin is in the second season of the four-year, $2.58 million deal he signed with the Cardinals after being selected in the second round of last year's draft out of Florida State. He is to have league-minimum salaries of $305,000 this season, $380,000 in 2005 and $460,000 in 2006, after which he would be eligible for unrestricted free agency. Boldin set an NFL rookie record with 101 catches last season and was selected to the Pro Bowl as a starter for the NFC, and the Cardinals have demonstrated a willingness to negotiate a new long-term contract. Boldin is sidelined by a knee injury suffered before the season but is slated to return to the Cardinals' lineup next month.
Boldin hired Rosenhaus as his agent after firing Ken Sarnoff recently. Rosenhaus also ,
has informed the Jacksonville Jaguars of his desire to negotiate a lucrative new deal for another new client, defensive tackle Marcus Stroud, who hired Rosenhaus after firing Pat Dye Jr. Rosenhaus is seeking a contract worth about $6 million per season for Stroud, whose current deal runs through the 2005 season and pays him salaries of $505,107 this season and $621,122 next year.
San Francisco 49ers center Jeremy Newberry, a two-time Pro Bowler, is scheduled to undergo surgery Tuesday on his right knee. He has continued to experience pain beneath his kneecap since undergoing surgery in August to have cartilage removed. Newberry is one of the league's toughest players. He started all 16 games last season despite a torn ankle ligament that required offseason surgery. He's missed one game the last five seasons. Brock Gutierrez replaces him in a 49ers lineup that will be minus three other key starters -- quarterback Tim Rattay, defensive end Andre Carter and cornerback Mike Rumph -- Sunday at New Orleans.
Rattay is scheduled to practice today and back up Ken Dorsey on Sunday even after suffering a second-degree separation of his right shoulder last weekend. Dorsey sat out part of Thursday's practice because of a sore arm. Otis Leverette is to start for Carter and Shawntae Spencer or Jimmy Williams is to fill in for Rumph.
Davis Out 2-5 Weeks
As if the defending NFC champions didn't have enough troubles already, Carolina will be without tailback Steven Davis for two to five weeks. Davis, who rushed for 1,444 yards last season as the focal point of the club's offense, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery today for a cartilage injury that he apparently aggravated in practice Thursday after being bothered by pain in the knee since the preseason.
DeShaun Foster takes over as the starter for Sunday's game at Kansas City, where the Chiefs have won 13 consecutive regular season games. The Panthers have lost standout wide receiver Steve Smith for most of the season because of a broken leg suffered during their season-opening loss Monday night to Green Bay, and are trying to solve problems along an offensive line in which only one player is starting at the same position as last season.
Tailback Chris Brown participated in the Tennessee Titans' practice on Thursday and is to play Sunday against Indianapolis. He suffered a sprained ankle during the Titans' opening win at Miami . . . .
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson asked ESPN to wear a microphone during Sunday night's game against the Dolphins. Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis also is to wear a microphone during the game . . . .
Pittsburgh rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is slated to practice today and, barring a setback, be available for Sunday's game at Baltimore as Tommy Maddux's backup. He suffered a bruised knee in practice this week. The Steelers have only two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster and would have to promote Brian St. Pierre from the practice squad if they're not confident in Roethlisberger's ability to play . . . .
Cleveland tailback Lee Suggs practiced all week, including today, and seems on course to return to the Browns' lineup Sunday at Dallas after sitting out the opener because of a pinched nerve in his neck. . . .
Arizona claimed linebacker Leon Joe, a fourth-round draft choice by Chicago out of the University of Maryland, off waivers from the Bears and released linebacker Levar Fisher, a starter for the Cardinals last season . . . .
The Minnesota Vikings re-signed kicker Aaron Elling today to handle kickoffs for veteran Morten Andersen, and released reserve cornerback Rhett Nelson . . . .
Detroit Lions wide receiver Charles Rogers underwent surgery Thursday after a broken collarbone ended his season for the second year in a row. Surgeons inserted a plate with eight screws over both the old fracture and the new fracture. The plate is to remain in place for at least a year . . . .
When the Raiders face Buffalo on Sunday, Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon will be going against a former Vikings teammate -- Bills Coach Mike Mularkey . . . .
Kansas City has gone 27 games without suffering consecutive regular season defeats, and Indianapolis has gone 26 games. They're the longest such streaks in the league but both are on the line Sunday, with each team coming off a season-opening loss . . . .
The New England Patriots will be without backup tailback Kevin Faulk for a second game in a row. He left the team because of the death of his mother and is nursing a knee injury, the severity of which is unclear . . . .
St. Louis released safety Jason Shivers, a fifth-round draft pick this year, because a shortage a linebacker forced the promotion of Tony Newson from the practice squad . . . .
Green Bay is carrying two punters, veteran Bryan Barker and rookie B.J. Sander, a third-round draft choice from Ohio State. Barker is scheduled to handle the punting duties for a second game in a row . . .
Cowboys Coach Bill Parcells is expressing optimism that his defense, ranked first in the league last season, will rebound from its poor showing in an opening loss at Minnesota.
"There's some good character and prideful guys playing on that defense," Parcells said during a media briefing this week. "They've had some success in the past. I think the defense will try to respond." . . .
The New York Jets will be without reserve defensive tackle Josh Evans against San Diego on Sunday, and he might have to undergo season-ending back surgery.