It’s a new era for Denver Broncos football. Not only do the Broncos have a new(ish) general manager (George Paton) and a brand-new head coach (Nathaniel Hackett) and quarterback (Russell Wilson), but the team will be under new ownership for the first time since 1984.
Based on historical precedent, it’s a positive harbinger for the Broncos’ future.
The Walton-Penner group — helmed by Walmart heir Rob Walton — has emerged victorious in the bidding process for ownership of the Broncos. Setting a new North American record, the Walton-Penner group will pay $4.65 billion to acquire the Broncos.
The team is undergoing a true sea change, and for the boys on the boat’s deck, it can be a little trepidatious — the illusory feeling of control (or lack thereof), or the waters of the status quo suddenly shifting. Taking the temperature of the locker room, how have the Broncos’ players reacted to the sale of the team, and what are their thoughts and insights on the Walton-Penner group?
We got some feedback from a few players this week as the Broncos continue their offseason training program at UCHealth Training Center.
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Garett Bolles | LT
Bolles is always quite positive and glowing when asked about anyone associated with the Broncos and it was no different with regard to the Walton-Penner group. However, Bolles’ standard remains the Bowlen family, which he believes the new ownership group will do right by.
“The Walton-Penner group are going to come in here and take what the Bowlen family has done and just continue to run with it and build it,” Bolles said. “I’m looking forward to all the amazing memories and all the amazing things that we are going to do and accomplish, both on the field and off the field.”
Bolles, and, ostensibly, his fellow players, sense that Walton is genuinely excited for the opportunity to helm the Broncos at the very top of the organization. After still-acting CEO Joe Ellis addressed the players and communicated a direct message from Walton to the team, it seemed to amp everybody up.
“You can just tell by the message that he (Ellis) shared how excited Mr. Walton is,” Bolles said. “And you see what that man has done with Walmart. You talk about what a great organization that is and a phenomenal store that has grown worldwide. It’s crazy what that man has done and now he can come in here. He’s excited because he loves football, and he wants to be a part of football. He wanted to put his time into football where he wanted to buy us. It just goes to show you what kind of things he wants to do, and the things that he wants to change. We’re looking forward to it.”
Patrick Surtain II | CB
Surtain is a young guy still figuring out his way in the NFL. Although his response wasn’t the most erudite, he seems genuinely energized by the Walton-Penner group’s purchase.
“I think it’s a great momentum going forward for our organization,” Surtain said. “I’m very excited for it.”
Brandon McManus | K
Even though he’s a specialist, McManus is viewed as a leader in the Broncos’ locker room, mainly because he’s the team’s players’ union rep and was recently placed on the NFLPA’s executive committee. His take on the Walton-Penner acquisition is one that other guys will look to as a compass to help forge their own opinions.
“To me, it’s been great now to get some clarity,” McManus said. “Any business structure is great when you have someone in place to lead and follow, and someone for our top executives to lean on. With Rob [Walton] and the Walton-Penner group coming in here, I’m excited to have some direction. I know from their business standards the accountability that they’ll have at the top, and they’ll hold everyone to it to get us back to the winning ways that I’ve been hoping to get to.”
$4.65B? ‘Great Value’
McManus also gave his estimation of the value of the Walton-Penner group’s unprecedented purchase of the Broncos.
“I’d say $4.65 billion was a ‘great value’ that they got the team for (laughing),” McManus said with a smile. “That’s the nature this business is going. In  the [Carolina] Panthers sold, and this is more than double. Baseball used to be America’s game, but I don’t think it’s anywhere close now. Football prints money, and it’s going to continue. The salary cap continues to go [up], the TV rights continue to go [up]. Gambling is just getting started. The values of these teams are going to continue to skyrocket, I believe.”
Nathaniel Hackett | HC
Hackett’s remarks about new ownership immediately preceded the official news of the Walton-Penner group’s acquisition, but by then, reports had spilled the beans. Hackett was well aware that the Broncos had been sold and offered up a politically savvy comment.
“It’s one of those things—it’s my job to get the team ready, teach systems, teach them to come together as a team and get them better at football,” Hackett said. “I know that’s a huge, huge deal but for us. It’s about winning, no matter who is going to own the team. I’m excited and I think that everyone who’s been a part of it is excited to have them become part of the Denver Broncos. We’ll see where it goes.”
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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