Englewood, Colo. • Even as dementia began to rob him of some of his fondest memories over the past few years, Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen reported to work every day to oversee multimillion-dollar upgrades to the team’s training facilities and roster.
So his absence from Dove Valley headquarters on Wednesday as players reported for physicals on the eve of training camp was as jarring as the announcement that the 70-year-old Bowlen was giving up control of the team because of Alzheimer’s disease.
"This place will never be the same," a choked-up general manager John Elway said. "... It’s going to be very hard to not see him walk through the front doors every day."
Yet, Elway and team president Joe Ellis pledged to continue Bowlen’s legacy and winning culture he fostered during his long stewardship of the franchise.
Ellis is adding the title of chief executive officer and will have final say on all matters.
"Mr. Bowlen has entrusted Joe to take his spot and he couldn’t have appointed a better guy to step in for Pat," Elway said. "Joe’s a guy that bleeds orange and blue."
Ownership of the franchise is held in a trust Bowlen set up more than a decade ago in hopes that one of his seven children will one day run the team; Ellis said Bowlen asked him to run that trust.
Elway, who brought Bowlen two Super Bowl rings during his Hall of Fame playing career, demurred when asked if he aspired to one day own the team.
"That family owns the Broncos. Pat Bowlen still owns the Broncos. We have total respect for that," Elway said. "They’ve hired me to run the football operations and I’m thrilled to do that. I work for Pat still, as well as the Bowlen family, and I’m going to continue to do that."
Around the league
Chiefs • Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles has agreed to a contract extension. The two-year extension runs through the 2017 season. The six-year NFL veteran ran for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns last year to help the Chiefs reach the playoffs.
Patriots • Tight end Rob Gronkowski is expected to be on the field for the first practice Thursday. That’s welcome news to his teammates after a season in which he played just seven regular-season games. He missed the first six following back surgery about a month before camp and the last three, plus both playoff games, with a torn ACL in his right knee.
Seahawks • Receiver Sidney Rice announced his retirement after an injury-filled career that included issues with concussions. The Seahawks announced Rice’s decision two days before the start of training camp. Rice played seven seasons and is retiring at age 27.
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