Russell Wilson ‘disappointed’ that Broncos planned to bench him for refusing to change contract

Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson said he was “disappointed” and “surprised” when coach Sean Payton told him this week that he would be benched for the final two games of the season.

Wilson, speaking Friday for the first time since Payton announced that Jarrett Stidham would be the team’s starting quarterback for the rest of the season, said the news caught him by surprise in large part because the Broncos (7-8) remain in the hunt for the playoffs at the beginning of the Week. 17 against the Los Angeles Chargers, a game in which Wilson will be the number 2 quarterback.

“I felt like we were doing something special and going,” Wilson said. “Obviously we’ve had some tough games, some tough and close ones, but we still have a chance. At the end of the day, what God has for me, I will continue to trust in him. I will continue to do my best every day and be as professional as possible, no matter the circumstances. I learned it a long time ago.”

Wilson said Denver approached him after their Week 8 win against the Kansas City Chiefs and told him that if he didn’t remove an injury guarantee in his contract, he would be benched.

“We beat the Chiefs. They approached me at the beginning of the bye week, Monday or Tuesday, and told me that if I didn’t change my contract, my injury guarantee, I would be benched for the rest of the year. …I was definitely disappointed.”

Wilson confirmed reports that the NFLPA was notified of the Broncos’ request.

“I wasn’t going to take away the injury guarantees,” he said. “This game is a very physical game. “I’ve been playing for 12 years and that matters to me.”

The Broncos ultimately did not bench Wilson after the bye week. He started the next seven games, the last of which was Sunday’s 26-23 loss to the New England Patriots. Benching him now, Payton has said, is a strictly performance-based decision. Wilson has turned the ball over five times and the Broncos have gone 1-3 in their last four games.

Payton, who spoke earlier Friday, said he was “not private” about any discussions the team had with Wilson when it approached the veteran quarterback about adjusting his contract.

“I’m running the football,” Payton said. “…That’s something (general manager) George (Paton) and the front office (manager). I’m not involved in any of that. Certainly, I’m involved in a lot of things, but… There will be a time and a place at the end of the season where some of the questions you may have, someone else will be able to answer. “My focus has been on winning.”

Payton reiterated his stance from earlier in the week that benching Wilson is a singularly football-based decision.

“I know how some of this has been written, but this decision is strictly what I think gives us the opportunity to win the eighth victory. Now, it is a difficult decision, but there is no other, for me and my current situation. In my career, the only thing that interests me is getting another victory. There would be no other reasons. Russ has had a great week. He has handled it well professionally.”

Wilson said he still hopes to remain with Denver after this season, but admitted his future could lie elsewhere.

“At the end of the day, I love this game,” Wilson said.

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(Photo: Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)