Do it for Pat.
It was the prevailing message in Englewood, Colorado, during the closing minutes of practice for the Denver Broncos on Saturday. And it’s sure to be a source of motivation in the coming week.
Pat Bowlen, the team’s owner since 1984, made his battle with Alzheimer’s disease public in July 2014. But though he had resigned from day-to-day operations of the organization in 2011, members of the Broncos’ front office reminded their players of Bowlen’s importance as they prepared for Super Bowl 50.
President and CEO Joe Ellis, who assumed control of the Broncos because of Bowlen’s health concerns, addressed the team Saturday, a day before the Broncos were scheduled to travel to the San Francisco Bay Area to face the Carolina Panthers.
“We talk about Mr. B a lot,” Denver coach Gary Kubiak said of Bowlen, who has been behind six Broncos Super Bowl appearances and two championships in 31-plus years as owner. “There are obviously a lot of older players in this organization that know him . . . And there are young kids who have probably never met him — maybe have not even seen him this year.
“I had Joe talk to the football team today, before we called it a week, about Mr. B, how he’s doing and how he’d be very proud of this football team. It was a very good moment.”
Bowlen, 71, first acknowledged experiencing short-term memory loss to the Denver Post in 2009. His face isn’t often seen by current players, but Bowlen used to be a major presence around team headquarters, Kubiak said.
“Mr. B was one of us,” said Kubiak, who spent 11 years as an assistant in Denver, from 1995-2005, before stops in Houston and Baltimore. “I mean he was around here at practice, he was in the weight room and he was one of us. Mr. B always hired good people and he let them do their job. He supported you all the way.”
Ellis’ “heartfelt speech” resonated with players, cornerback Aqib Talib said. And it’s no surprise that these Broncos are determined to bring home another Lombardi Trophy for their owner.
“It’d be his third Super Bowl,” Aqib said of beating the Panthers for Bowlen. “It’d be wonderful. It would really mean everything to him if we would get to bring that trophy home to him.”
Practice itself felt no different for the Broncos, save for the fact that they practiced with crowd noise this week. According to Kubiak, it was Peyton Manning’s idea.
“Peyton mentioned that [noise was an issue in Super Bowl XLVIII] to me, so we took the approach this week to practice with noise,” Kubiak said, referring to the Broncos’ 43-8 loss to the Seahawks at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2, 2014. “We can always go the other way, that’s a positive, so we tried to approach it that way.”