Broncos coach Sean Payton: Russell Wilson “fantastic” in handling demotion even as drama around contract conversations continues

Game day didn’t bring the Russell Wilson benching drama to a close — or even move it to the back burner.

After a 16-9 win over the Chargers on Sunday, Broncos head coach Sean Payton brushed off more questions about the nature of conversations between Wilson’s representatives and the Denver front office in late October and early November.

The club asked Wilson to move back a March 17 guarantee date on $37 million in 2025 salary, Wilson said on Friday. He said that the club threatened to bench him if he didn’t and that the NFL Players Association and league got involved in the proceedings over the course of Denver’s bye week.

On Sunday morning, the Washington Post reported on a letter sent by an NFLPA lawyer to the Broncos dated Nov. 4 saying, in part, that if, “the Broncos follow through on the Club’s threat, the Club will violate, among other things, the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Mr. Wilson’s Player Contract and New York law. And, we are particularly concerned that the Broncos still intend to commit these violations under the guise of ‘coaching decisions.’”

Broncos sources maintain the conversations were negotiations and not threats. None of the people actually involved in the conversations — Denver general manager George Paton, executive Rich Hurtado and Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers — have weighed in publicly.

“You asked the question on Friday and I think I answered it pretty well,” Payton said Sunday. “When the season ends, you have questions specific to all of that — I wasn’t privy to the dialogue — you’ll be able to ask the appropriate people.”

Wilson, of course, continued starting after the bye week and no grievance was filed on Wilson’s behalf by the NFLPA. He played nearly every snap for Denver until he was benched Wednesday by Payton, who said he was looking for “a spark” offensively and that he thought moving to backup Jarrett Stidham could provide that.

“Russ was fantastic this week,” Payton said of his moving to the No. 2 role. “I think this idea that he and I, we don’t have a good relationship or he’s not fitting, all of that stuff I think comes from people further away from our program. …

“He’s approached this week like we expected. Like a pro.”

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