ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos have hired Dr. Nicole Linen as the team's full-time Behavior Health Specialist, the team announced Thursday.
Linen will work directly with the team's players and coaches and consult regularly with the Broncos' medical, athletic training and player development staffs.
"My job is essentially to offer our guys mental health assistance individually and also provide them with some sports psychology support," Linen said. "[That means] working with them as it relates to any sort of mental health or emotional concerns on and off the field, but also making sure that they feel like they're in peak position to perform mentally."
Linen spent 2017-20 at Auburn University, where she focused on giving clinical and sport psychology support to more than 500 individual student-athletes. She also provided mental health consultations and education to Auburn's entire athletic department.
"I'm excited to be here," Linen said. "I don't take it lightly. Not only am I a woman in this role, but I'm a Black woman. I think that speaks volumes to the Broncos organization and their commitment to not only mental health but diversity. I'm excited to bring my full self to this position and all of my experiences, personally and professionally. I'm ready to get to work. This is going to be a good year. I know people keep saying it's an odd year to be in the NFL, and I keep thinking, 'It's a really great opportunity to come into the NFL at this time.'"
Both the Broncos and NFL have increased their commitment to supporting players' and coaches' mental health in recent years.
In 2019, the NFL and NFLPA developed a mental health and wellness committee that created educational programs on mental health and also required teams to hire a behavioral health specialist that would be available at the facility for 8 to 12 hours per week.
"I think there's been an increased recognition in the sports medicine community over the past couple of years of how important behavioral and mental health issues are today, especially with young people," NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills told ESPN last year.
The Broncos fulfilled that requirement in 2019, and the team has now hired Linen as a full-time Behavior Health Specialist.
Linen is a member of the American Psychological Association (APA), the Association for Women in Psychology (AWP) and the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). Linen also was the founding faculty advisor for Black Women in Mental Health, a graduate student organization that increases and promotes mental health awareness in the Black community.
Linen holds three post-graduate degrees from Wright State University: a master's degree in clinical psychology (2012), a Master of Business Administration in interdisciplinary business (2013) and a Doctor of Psychology in clinical psychology (2015). She completed her undergraduate degree in psychology at Southwestern Assemblies of God University.
Linen, a former collegiate basketball player, completed a predoctoral internship at The Help Group, a group of non-public schools in the greater Los Angeles area. She then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago.
"It seems like now is a really good time for this team to have someone in my role to be able to offer my services, especially given the state of the world right now," Linen said. "There's a lot of social unrest, and I think that's another aspect of my job: to help our guys and our staff kind of navigate that. Yeah, they're athletes, but they're also humans who have identities outside of their athletic identities."