Denver Broncos director of player personnel Matt Russell and director of pro personnel Tom Heckert have been suspended without pay by the team following their recent arrests on suspicion of driving under the influence, the Broncos announced on Monday.
Heckert, who was hired by the Broncos two months ago, was arrested on June 11 and registered a blood-alcohol level of .162, which is twice the legal limit. Russell was arrested on July 6 and has been charged with driving under the influence, having an open container of alcohol, careless driving resulting in injury and failure to display proof of insurance.
Russell's blood-alcohol level was at .246, three times the legal limit. As a result, Russell has been suspended indefinitely, while Heckert's suspension is scheduled to last one month.
"We have closely reviewed the incidents involving Matt Russell and Tom Heckert independently as well as part of a larger issue we must address," Broncos president Joe Ellis said in a statement released by the team. "Throughout this process, we had extensive conversations internally and consulted with the National Football League.
"This morning, we informed both Matt and Tom of the discipline as well as our expectations of them going forward. While they will be punished and held accountable, our first priority is their health and well-being. We must ensure they receive any care they need and support them however possible.
"There is no place for drinking and driving, and we certainly expect better from those in leadership positions," Ellis added. "The resources we make available within our organization are critically important, but there is nothing more vital than individual responsibility. It is imperative that we affect the decision-making process to end this reckless behavior. Our education, counseling, resources and awareness regarding this serious offense must be improved. That process has already begun. We will take these steps and more as we deal with this issue in the most thorough manner possible."
Denver Broncos Hall of Fame quarterback and current president John Elway also weighed in on the decision to suspend Russell and Heckert.
"It’s particularly disappointing that two members of my staff acted so irresponsibly. Simply put, it’s unacceptable and inexcusable," said Elway. “I was extremely concerned when Tom Heckert notified me of his arrest in June. We talked about it as a staff, reinforced the intolerable nature of his actions and notified the league as we began the disciplinary process.
“To hear of Matt Russell’s incident last week was especially disturbing considering the timing and severity of those allegations. While Matt and Tom have apologized and taken accountability, it’s most important they take advantage of whatever help they need.
"We will learn from this and take the necessary action as we move forward in a positive way."
In addition to Russell and Heckert, the Denver Post reported on Monday that Quentin Saulsberry, a first-year center from Mississippi State, was arrested on suspicion of DUI in May. The Broncos told the Post that they and the league office have been aware of the arrest since it occurred. Saulsberry went to training camp last year with the Minnesota Vikings and spent most of the 2012 season on the Broncos' practice squad before he was suspended in late December for violating the league's policy against performance-enhancing drugs.
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- Tom Heckert
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- Matt Russell