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Broncos Build Strong Locker Room Culture

Posted Nov 6, 2013

Independent analyst Andrew Mason takes a look at the Broncos' locker room culture.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Anyone can put together a good season. Building a franchise that sustains above-average performance over the long haul -- years, even decades -- requires patience, organizational commitment, and fostering a positive, cooperative environment in the locker room.

That can be difficult with at least 61 players in the locker room at any time, depending on the number of players on injured reserve. The backgrounds are disparate; often, the only common bond is the jersey color on game days and the logo on the helmet. Boundaries, personalities and temperaments vary.

It can be combustible -- or it can be a model of how dozens of disparate individuals come together in cooperation. One example of the former, in Miami, has mushroomed from a narrow-focused sports story to a national debate. The Broncos' goal is the latter, keeping the focus on common goals and the job at hand; this helps unify, rather than divide.

"We just don't do stuff like that. It's all strictly football here," said safety Rahim Moore.

There's various reasons for that. One is locker-room leadership.

"If it happened here, a guy would go to Peyton (Manning) or 'Wood' (Wesley Woodyard) and let them know (he's) feeling uncomfortable in the locker room," said defensive tackle Terrance Knighton.

Another reason is the open-door policy that Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway and Head Coach John Fox emphasized when they assumed their current organizational positions in January 2011 -- something that Interim Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio reminded his players Wednesday.

"I did address it with the team, and told them that hopefully they feel confident if anything was ever going on that they would seek one of the channels internally here -- whether it be a coach, a position coach, head coach, anybody in coaching, somebody else in the building, (Director of Player Development) Jerry Butler, a fellow player. It doesn’t have to be a captain or leader," said Del Rio.

"If something’s going on, let us help you. We like to talk about being family and we like to think we’d be helpful for a person struggling in a particular situation.”

It helps that Elway is a former player and that Fox, in his 12 seasons as a head coach, has always common presence in the locker room, often roaming through to chat with his players not in a boss-underling relationship, but man-to-man and as friends. They're in positions where they can see any potential issues before they come problems, and help ensure they're properly rectified and don't cause further problems.

"Coach Fox, man, he makes everybody feel comfortable and does a good job of making everybody feel comfortable in that environment," said defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson

The combination of factors is why multiple Broncos were resolute in their belief that such an internal crisis would not happen with this team.

"Yeah, all of the above. But at the same time, like I said, it's something where the respect factor for one another is big," said Vickerson. "So we laugh and joke, we play around and all that stuff, but at the same time, when it's time to work and respect for a man, this is a man's livelihood. We've got to make a good working environment for each other."

Added cornerback Chris Harris Jr.: "Everybody on this team, we joke around, we have fun with each other. Nobody takes it too serious like that to where it gets out of hand. We do a good job of having a friendly locker room."

And most importantly, a mature locker room.

"Being a bully is elementary. Getting bullied is elementary," said Vickerson. "We're grown men in this league, and you've got to respect one another and work together as adults."