ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In Head Coach Sean Payton's mind, winning results on the field correlate with strong leadership from players. After Payton announced the Broncos' 2023 captains, he reflected on just how crucial that leadership can be.
"Guys lead in their own ways," Payton said after practice on Wednesday. "Obviously, the veteran players vote on these guys. Generally speaking, your better teams are player-led teams. Your average teams are coach-led teams, and your poor teams really have no leadership. I think it's important."
Denver's player vote culminated in the naming of six captains: quarterback Russell Wilson, wide receiver Courtland Sutton, tackle Mike McGlinchey, safeties Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson and punter Riley Dixon. That group enters 2023 with a combined 48 seasons of NFL experience and includes three players who were captains for the Broncos last season in Wilson, Sutton, Simmons and Jackson. In certain other years, Denver named game captains rather than season-long selections.
Simmons is one of the most decorated Broncos and has established his reputation as one of the league's best defensive backs, but he still considers the honor of captain to be the ultimate distinction.
"It means everything, to be able to be named captain [by] your peers, year in and year out, it means a lot," Simmons said. "I don't take that lightly. It comes with a heavy burden, but one all the captains will equally share. I'm excited for the season."
Wilson will be playing in his 12th season and has demonstrated a strong grasp of Payton's offense in training camp and the preseason. Payton reflected on the leadership qualities he appreciates in his starting quarterback.
"You start with all great leaders, sometimes they're just by example, and I wouldn't say that's the case with Russell, but certainly by example, the work he puts in, the amount of time he's on the opponent, in the building," Payton said. "Part of that's the position prerequisite. I would say he's real upbeat. Man, he's positive [and] encouraging. He has a lot of really good traits that I like, and I think over his career, dating back to college, it's shown itself time and time again."
Along with the trio of returning captains, two of the Broncos' offseason additions received the nod as captains in McGlinchey and Dixon.