Thanksgiving is a time for family, food and football — and for Broncos players, it is also an opportunity to rest and reflect ahead of Sunday's game against the Panthers.
Quarterback Russell Wilson said that he cherishes the memories of Thanksgiving celebrations from his childhood, recalling that he and his late father would watch Thanksgiving football together every year.
"It's an important time to celebrate your family and loved ones," Wilson said. "... My dad means the world to me, so every Thanksgiving I always reflect back to that."
The season may not be going as planned, but the players noted that they have plenty of things to be grateful for. While their answers varied, they overwhelmingly expressed gratitude for one thing: family.
"It's too many things to just name one thing [that I'm grateful for], but I guess I'll say family," wide receiver Jalen Virgil said. "Without family, there's no way I'd be here."
Added cornerback Damarri Mathis: "I'm thankful for God being able to bless me [and put] me in the position that I'm in, play football. I'm thankful for my family, my teammates, you know. Family and friends."
Guard/center Quinn Meinerz said that he is particularly grateful for his family this week, as they traveled to Denver for the Broncos' Week 11 game against the Raiders to watch him play at Empower Field at Mile High for the first time.
"I'm thankful for the health of my family," Meinerz said. "It was really good to see them last weekend. It was actually the first game that all my siblings got to come to, and they came to [Empower Field at] Mile High, so it was really an experience that I'm thankful for. Ever since high school, I've dreamt of that moment of waving to my family before the game starts in an NFL game, so I'm really thankful for that."
In addition to giving thanks, Broncos players will celebrate the holiday with a cherished meal. Some will cook with their families, while others will gather at teammates' houses. Several players expressed excitement for the Thanksgiving meal, but their opinions on the best dishes were divisive.
"My mom's dressing or sweet potato casserole [is the best dish]," Virgil said. "And I won't be able to have it this year, but I told them, 'Make sure eat an extra plate for me.'"
Wide receiver Courtland Sutton added that his mom's creamed corn is his favorite dish, and he also had a strong opinion on what the worst Thanksgiving food is.
"Dry turkey," Sutton said. "It's the absolute worst. It can stay there, honestly, at the store. You don't even got to cook it, just leave it at the store."
Mathis, who noted that he plans to attend Thanksgiving dinner at safety Kareem Jackson's house, has several dishes that he is looking forward to.
"I like ham," Mathis said. "I'm a big ham person. I like ham, I like collard greens, oh — mac 'n' cheese."
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On Tuesday, cornerback Pat Surtain II partnered with Family Promise of Greater Denver, a nonprofit that assists families at risk of or experiencing homelessness, to hold a Thanksgiving turkey giveaway. Surtain noted that the event provided more than 30 local families with turkeys and gift cards, and the second-year cornerback expressed gratitude for being able to help members of the community have a joyful Thanksgiving.
"This event was something I planned for the whole year, was giving back — especially for this special holiday, Thanksgiving," Surtain said during the event. "I felt like it was right. I want to thank the Family Promise organization for allowing me to have this special event to give back, so I'm just grateful for this to happen."