In order to help those affected by COVID-19, the Broncos on Monday announced they would fund 100,000 meals for the community via a donation to Food Bank of the Rockies. Broncos kicker Brandon McManus also did his part, as he pledged to fund an additional 20,000 meals via his Project McManus Foundation.
We caught up with McManus to hear about the inspiration behind his donation, his thoughts on the new collective bargaining agreement as the Broncos' player rep and his reaction after the Broncos picked up his contract option on Friday.
Aric DiLalla: As we deal with COVID-19, you and the Broncos have made a generous donation. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
Brandon McManus: "Obviously it's a crazy time for everybody. Hopefully the health and safety of everyone is obviously of the utmost importance for everybody. That's changed the realm of the sports world, as we've all seen. ... I started my foundation, Project McManus, last year, and [I] never want to see pandemics like this, but this is kind of why I wanted to start my foundation: for situations like this and to help people in need. We're excited to, Project McManus is excited to partner with the Denver Broncos. We'll be donating 120,000 meals for at-risk youth and at-risk adults dealing with the coronavirus who don't know where their next meal might be coming from."
AD: Why did you decide you wanted to make a donation to the Denver community?
BM: "Our foundation statement is to help here in the community that we've been a part of now for seven years and all the at-risk kids and disadvantaged youth that we can help [with] dire needs. Obviously this being a dire need we're facing right now with the schools being closed here and helping a lot of kids who go there, the only meals that they get are breakfast and lunch from the school. So being able to provide meals for them — their families — so they're not worried about where they get the funds for these meals was a big thing we wanted to do."
AD: What was it about Food Bank of the Rockies that drew you to them?
BM: "They're well-versed in the whole community itself. It doesn't just fund one location. ... They spread their fingers all the way out to a lot of different organizations, which I liked [and] which is similar to my foundation. Obviously doing Taste of the Broncos every year, which benefits Food Bank of the Rockies, which I hosted last year and have been [to] every year before, I've had a great relationship with them. I know that what they're doing is great work, and I know us being a part of them will help provide these families and kids in need with meals."
AD: Shifting gears, we saw Sunday that the collective bargaining agreement was ratified. As the Broncos' player rep, what was your reaction to the news?
BM: "I think it's pretty consistent with the months and months of what we'd been negotiating and going through and the talks. I figured it was going to be a close 'yes' and it truly was, by 60 votes. I think it's a great deal for a lot of players. I know there's a lot of things in the deal that I myself still don't like and a lot of the players across the league don't like, but at the end of the day, we went through the democratic process and it turned out to be a majority vote of a 'yes.' Like I said, there were still a lot of great things that will help instantaneously. Immediately, a lot of players are going to see a lot of benefits into their benefit packages, into their minimum salaries, which will be increased from rookies all the way to vet minimum players [by] at least $100,000. There's a lot of things across the board that were good that we didn't have in the previous deal. We have the labor peace for 10 years, which is great for fans, for owners and for players. We look forward to putting out a great product again as we always do."
AD: What were the challenges of being the player rep during a negotiation that came down to the wire?
BM: "It depends on what you consider a challenge and something that to me was exciting. I had a great time doing this and it truly was awesome to be nominated to be a player rep and then to be the rep during this time period of going through the negotiations. I think one of the biggest things was when we really hunkered down and got to the nitty gritty here of trying to get the deal passed and trying to get the deal passed down to all the players, it was a lot of travel. I was in Miami for meetings, then I went to LA the next week, then was supposed to go to DC. … We had these four-hour conference calls every two days, three days, then I was on vacation in Mexico, then I had to fly into [Indianapolis] to vote. And then went back, and then we were just in Miami for the annual [NFLPA] meetings to help educate the rest of the players who were still indecisive on which way they wanted to vote, and like I said, it was an awesome time to be a part of this. Obviously playing football growing up and going to college, you're a student-athlete and you go to school and it's awesome. When you get to the NFL, there's a lot more business involved with the whole thing. It's a sport that we truly love to play still, but it is an entertainment business when we get to this point."
AD: There was some speculation that the vote was impacted at least in part by COVID-19. As a sports fan, what's it been like to see these nation-wide cancellations over the last week?
BM: "It's tough, because I think sports provides a lot of people with positive things, something to look forward to if they're struggling with certain things. It gives them something to root for, whether it's their team in certain sports. But I truly understand that economy-wise we're in a tough position right now, health-wise a lot of people are at risk and it's the right thing to do to help prevent it from truly affecting a lot of people here in the United States. I know it's a super difficult decision to do a lot of these things, and I know we wish it didn't come to the United States like the way it did and how ferociously it's attacking us now, continuing to climb. I think they did the right thing in helping to prevent it not spread and hopefully to isolate a lot of people from getting it. Obviously, I'm a huge sports fan. I love watching every sport on TV, and I know a lot of people are upset about it, but I think it was the right thing to do."
AD: From a football perspective, how much do you allow yourself to think about how this could impact the rest of the offseason?
BM: "I was a biology/pre-med major in college and got my degree in that, but I'm not well-versed in the infectious diseases. So I'm not sure exactly the time frame that [the CDC] is talking about. Obviously I hope it doesn't get too far [so that] it becomes an issue for us preparing for hopefully a run to get back to the Super Bowl."
AD: We saw the news on Friday that the Broncos have officially picked up your option. How glad are you to be back in Denver for another season, and what are you looking to prove this year?
BM: "It's always awesome to be validated that you're wanted, especially with a team where this will be my seventh year here already. Time flies. It's been great to be working here. Obviously it's been difficult at times. There's definitely some kicks that I'd like back and some kicks that I was excited about making. … I've had four special teams coordinators, two long snappers — maybe a third coming in, we'll see — and four punters. To have one kicker that whole time has obviously been a good run for me and I'm excited about the future."