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phoenix» It has been nearly three years since Pat Bowlen stepped down from his daily du­ties as owner of the Bron­cos. His ab­sence from league func­tions and Bron­cos cel­e­bra­tions still seems odd for many who be­came ac­cus­tomed to see­ing the team’s long­time owner at team func­tions. But Bron­cos pres­i­dent and CEO Joe El­lis said Bowlen is “do­ing just fine at home rest­ing com­fort­ably” and “would be ex­cited about where the league stands.”

“He’d be dis­ap­pointed that he couldn’t go to the ‘Black Hole’ any­more,” El­lis added, re­fer­ring to the Raiders’ ap­proved move to Las Ve­gas. “He liked walk­ing across the south end zone there and get­ting ha­rassed. That was one of the more en­joy­able mo­ments each sea­son. I think he’d be proud of the work he did and be amazed re­ally at how far this league has come, how pop­u­lar the sport is, his team is and the Na­tional Foot­ball League is. It’s just a shame that he can’t be here to­day to en­joy all of it.”

Among the most press­ing is se­cur­ing a new sta­dium nam­ing-rights part­ner in the wake of Sports Author­ity’s bank­ruptcy. The Bron­cos, who bought the last five years of Sports Author­ity’s nam­ing-rights con­tract, teamed with WME | IMG to find a new part­ner and con­tinue to sift through their op­tions. El­lis has said in the past that he hoped to have a new part­ner in place by the start of the sea­son. While he’s still op­ti­mistic of do­ing so, he said “no prom­ises, be­cause you have to get the right deal.”

Also high on El­lis’ to-do list is reach­ing a new con­tract with gen­eral man­ager John El­way, who is en­ter­ing the fi­nal year of his deal. In Jan­uary, El­way said the Bron­cos had early talks with El­way’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives about a new deal and they were op­ti­mistic of reach­ing an ac­cord soon — even be­fore the start of the new sea­son.

“I’m very hope­ful we can get this thing re­solved sooner rather than later,” El­lis said. “I’d like to get it done be­fore that, yeah. I’d like John to stick around. I think I’m in the ma­jor­ity.”

Leaper ban.

If Justin Sim­mons had a vote, it would be a hard no. The Bron­cos safety who made fa­mous the leaper play that blocked an ex­tra­point at­tempt and led to the game-win­ning score against New Or­leans, is, un­sur­pris­ingly, against the league’s pro­posal to ban it.

“It seems a lit­tle out of hand,” Sim­mons told The Den­ver Post by phone Mon­day. “I just don’t un­der­stand why it’s a play that they want to elim­i­nate. It’s not like that play has any higher of a risk of some­one get­ting hurt than ac­tu­ally play­ing the game of foot­ball in and of it­self. I don’t un­der­stand. The league has their rules and is try­ing to keep the play­ers safe, but per­son­ally it doesn’t make any sense.”

OTAs set.

The Bron­cos’ off­sea­son pro­gram will be­gin April 10, a week later than the team could have started this year be­cause they have a new head coach in Vance Joseph. Per league rules, teams with new coaches can start as early as April 3.

“April 10 gave us the op­por­tu­nity to go straight through,” Joseph said. “April 3 would have had one week off in the mid­dle some­where. Play­ers don’t want that. They want to work through, have a great off­sea­son, get their va­ca­tion and come back.”

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