ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In the wake of a fatal car crash caused by former Raiders receiver Henry Ruggs III, Broncos Head Coach Vic Fangio spoke to his team about the consequences of drinking and driving.
Fangio said he spoke with the team Thursday about the situation, which occurred in the early hours of Tuesday morning. According to prosecutors, Ruggs was traveling at more than 150 miles per hour and had a blood alcohol level that was more than twice the legal limit when he struck the rear of Tina O. Tintor's vehicle. The 23-year-old woman and her dog died in the crash, which set fire to Tintor's car.
Ruggs was waived by the Raiders on Tuesday evening. The 2020 first-round pick faces felony charges for driving under the influence of alcohol resulting in death and reckless driving.
Fangio said he waited to speak to his team until Thursday morning to allow the Broncos' Alabama alums to have "a day to absorb everything." Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy and cornerback Pat Surtain II were teammates with Ruggs at the University of Alabama.
Fangio said he spoke with Jeudy and Surtain and that the two players were "doing good."
Safety Kareem Jackson was not at Alabama with Ruggs, but the former Crimson Tide player spoke Thursday about the tragic loss of Tintor's life.
"[It's] definitely a sad situation, when you talk about the losses in that," Jackson said. "First and foremost, the family that lost the young lady, my heart goes out to them. You definitely don't want to lose any loved ones, but any time it happens, with her just being 23, it's definitely devastating. It's a tough situation for Ruggs and his family, as well, because obviously not sure what will happen to him, but it's a tough situation."
Jackson said Fangio's message to the team was to "not put themselves in that situation."
"We all go out, we like to enjoy ourselves in our downtime and our leisure time," Jackson said. "[Fangio was just] encouraging guys to do the right thing when it comes to drinking and driving."
Jackson, who served a two-game suspension in 2019 for a DUI arrest, spoke candidly about what he learned from his own mistakes.
"Obviously I had my situation a couple years back, so for me, it's all about encouraging those guys to do the right thing, not putting themselves in that situation," Jackson said. "That's something that at that point in time, I was taking it for granted. But now I definitely take the right steps and do the right thing when it comes to that and making sure I use Uber or a driver or whatever … I need to do in order to handle things the right way. I think the Broncos do a great job of putting a lot of things in place for us, a lot of different avenues as far of us being able to travel safe if we know we're going to go out and enjoy ourselves. We definitely have to take advantage of that."
Since 2013, the NFL Players Association has partnered with ride-share services to provide players with alternate transportation to prevent such tragedies.
In this instance, Jackson said he knows that two families have had their lives forever altered.
"My heart goes out to both families," Jackson said. "Both sides will lose somebody in this situation. I think Ruggs has a young daughter — [it] definitely will be tough for her growing up and her father not being there. It's a tough situation all the way around. I'll definitely be praying for both sides."
'I NEED TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP'
Just a few months after Jonathon Cooper was selected in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL Draft, he now finds himself in the spotlight. Following the Broncos' decision to trade Von Miller to the Rams, the rookie Ohio State product is the newly promoted starter who will take Miller's spot in the lineup for at least the next few weeks.
Soon enough, Bradley Chubb will return to help bolster the Broncos' pass rush, but until then, Cooper and Malik Reed will serve as the team's primary rushers.
Cooper played a career-high 53 defensive snaps against Washington, and he recorded three quarterback hits the previous week against Cleveland after Miller exited with an injury. Each of the three hits was nearly a game-changing sack or strip-sack, but Cooper said it's time for him to produce.
"I feel like I just need to grow as a player," Cooper said Thursday. "I feel like I just really need to grow up. I can't keep telling myself like, 'Oh, I'm a rookie' or 'Oh, this is my first year. Let me get my feet under me.' I've played a couple of games and I've shown I can go out there and play well. I just feel like I need to take the next step and keep learning from guys like Malik and Chubb and really just see what I can do — take my game to the next level."
IN POSITION TO MAKE PLAYS
Cornerback Pat Surtain II has a team-high seven passes defensed this season, but the ninth-overall pick has just one interception through the Broncos' first eight games. He nearly recorded his second pick in the late stages of the Broncos' win over Washington, and Fangio said he believes Surtain is close to converting those opportunities into takeaways.
Fangio noted the difference between Surtain reaching for the ball and being able to "pluck" the ball out of the air is a matter of milliseconds.
"He probably could've picked one late in the game," Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell said. "He feels like he could've. The more times you're in position, the more opportunities you're going to get. He's on the proper path for that happening."
Surtain is one of 11 rookies with an interception, and only New Orleans' Paulson Adebo and the Chargers' Asante Samuel Jr. have more, with two picks apiece.
Surtain ranks second among rookies in passes defensed.