ICYMI: Food safety boss at Arrowhead, Kauffman fired

March, 27, 2015
Mar 27

The food safety manager who went public last fall with allegations of unsafe food handling and pictures of bugs, mouse feces and moldy food at Kansas City's Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums has been fired.

Jon Costa shared with "Outside the Lines" a copy of a letter he said his former employer, Aramark, sent him on March 17 saying Costa was being fired "for cause." The letter outlines a number of reasons, the first of which is that he violated the company's media policy by taking his concerns public.

Costa came forward publicly with his concerns last November, just after World Series games at Kauffman Stadium, in an email to media and public health officials, including the local health department. He detailed allegations, complete with photos, of cockroaches in vending areas, mouse feces on the same tray as pizza dough, sinks where employees were supposed to wash their hands being blocked by boxes or trash, employees eating in food prep areas and trays of food headed for customers that measured at unsafe temperatures.

Aramark declined to answer specific questions about Costa's firing but issued a statement Thursday noting that "We respect our employees' privacy and consider personnel matters confidential. We maintain that privacy even if an individual chooses to discuss their situation publicly."

Peyton Manning and Gary KubiakGetty ImagesPeyton Manning and Gary Kubiak will start working together using the Broncos' new playbook next month.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Gary Kubiak has said the Denver Broncos’ new playbook on offense is ready to go and waiting for its formal installation when the Broncos begin their offseason work April 13 at their suburban Denver complex.

And Kubiak has said he expects to call plays in the offense “because it’s something I’ve enjoyed and have done for a while," but that doesn’t mean folks still won’t see Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning doing what he’s done for so long at the line of scrimmage.

Kubiak covered a lot of ground earlier this week at the league’s annual spring meetings, including plenty on Manning fitting into the new offense.

And one of Kubiak’s main messages was Manning is a future Hall of Famer, with a long resume of successes in the NFL and a deep understanding of the game, so the Broncos are going to run an offense that fits his strengths.

Play calls will come in from the sideline, but Manning will still have freedom change things at the line of scrimmage. But the changes will be a product of working through things on the practice field, so a Kubiak play call made on Wednesday or Thursday in practice in a particular situation is the one Manning makes at the line of scrimmage on game day.

“I think you prepare to help him call that game throughout the course of the week," Kubiak said. “A lot of people put emphasis on him calling plays at the line, but you’ve also prepared to do that throughout the course of the week, so you, as a coach, 'Here’s what I think is best in that situation.' In a lot of ways you’re still working together. You’re just going about it a different way."

Kubiak, who played nine seasons as John Elway’s backup at quarterback, has consistently talked about “meshing" things Kubiak has done with offenses in the past with both the Broncos and Houston Texans to what Manning has done in his 17 previous seasons in the league.

And the phrase “comfort level" has come up a lot in recent weeks.

“You never want to put a player in a position where he’s doing something he’s uncomfortable with," Kubiak said. “One of things about having a veteran, especially like Peyton, he’s going to let you know, 'This is what I do best and this is what I feel comfortable with.' That’s what you need to go do as a coach. You might tweak things here or there that you think may help, but you’re never going to take him out of his comfort zone and what he feels like he does best.”

Been receiving many questions about the cap space the Kansas City Chiefs would need to conduct their draft. Overthecap.com has a nice piece on exactly what it would take in terms of cap room for each NFL team to make its picks, including the Chiefs and their 10 choices.

The Chiefs will need about $2 million to conduct their draft, according to OTC. Their rookie pool is about $6.4 million. For the differences between the two, I urge you to read the OTC story.

The Chiefs, according to the NFL Players Association, have about $2.75 million of remaining cap space. So the Chiefs could conduct their draft today, assuming these figures to be correct.

But that wouldn’t leave the Chiefs much wiggle room for any remaining free agents they might like to sign, or anything else, really. So they’ll have to clear some cap room as they move forward.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There were some around the Denver Broncos' complex who looked at quarterback Peyton Manning's game against the Oakland Raiders on Dec. 28 with a raised eyebrow or two.

It wasn't that Manning, who completed 21 of 37 passes for 273 yards, didn't throw a touchdown pass (one of his two games last season without one) or that the Broncos struggled (they didn't in a 47-14 win). It was that Manning, with a right thigh injury he had suffered just two games before, was even playing in the final game of the regular season since the team couldn't improve its playoff seeding.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesThe Broncos want to make sure Peyton Manning is healthy and rested for the playoffs.

Manning played deep into the fourth quarter of that Week 17 game and two weeks later looked less than 100 percent in the Broncos' playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts. And with his 39th birthday having arrived this week, getting Manning at least some rest in the coming season, whenever possible, is something that is at least on the table for discussion.

Coach Gary Kubiak said this week at the NFL's annual spring meetings, it is a topic he wants to address in some way as he and Manning begin their working relationship together when the Broncos open their offseason on April 13.

"It's interesting," Kubiak said in Phoenix. "He and I talked about that and I know his mindset is totally the other way but I have to get a feel for that. I think that as a coach you have to make those suggestions to players ... I don't know what that's going to be until I get involved with him on a day-to-day basis."

It is certainly a topic Kubiak has addressed before. He was the Broncos' offensive coordinator for John Elway's final four seasons at quarterback when Elway was 35-, 36-, 37- and 38-years-old and the Broncos were regulating Elway's practice time.

Manning himself wants to take every snap he can in practice, let alone missing any parts of practice. The Broncos did have him take Wednesdays off down the stretch in the 2013 season because of ankle injuries that had bothered Manning for much of that year.

So, Kubiak knows he may have some push-back from Manning.

"The great ones -- the reason they're great is you have to battle them on things like that because they are used to being a part of every day," Kubiak said. "They are used to having that under-control every day situation. So we'll see how it works out. We want to do what's best for him. I went through the same process with John late in his career. It was a battle for me and (former Broncos coach) Mike (Shanahan) to do some things with him. ... But he battled us too and that's why they are who they are."

Resting Manning would also give the Broncos an opportunity to check on their life-after-Manning plan. Brock Osweiler, who was a second-round pick by the Broncos the same year the team signed Manning in free agency (2012), got in just four games last season to attempt 10 combined passes.

Over the last three seasons Osweiler has thrown 30 passes combined with his long career touchdown pass coming in that regular-season finale against the Raiders when Manning remained in the game deep into the fourth quarter. Kubiak said he had gone through the video of Osweiler's work in games to go with the three years' worth of practice video.

"He's got a bunch of ability, he's a big, strong kid, he's smart, he can move around," Kubiak said. " ... Now I get a chance to get my hands on him, work with him. But the thing I'm so impressed with is how, I guess I'll use the word excited, he is wanting to get going. I know he wants to be a part of the Broncos organization. He sees himself as a starter, that's the most important thing."

The Broncos will face a decision about Osweiler's future at the end of the 2015 season when he is slated to become an unrestricted free agent. Both Kubiak and executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway have expressed the optimism with Osweiler's progress.

For the most part Osweiler has remained patient in his time as Manning's backup, save for the Broncos' game in Oakland when Osweiler's hand-wave reaction to Manning re-entering a 41-10 game with 40 seconds remaining in the third quarter was caught by the network TV camera.He has consistently expressed his desire "to learn everything I can and understand what a good situation I'm in."

Former Broncos coach John Fox said he was responsible for the communication mix-up that resulted in Manning re-entering the game. Kubiak said this week his message to Osweiler has been, and will be, to stay ready.

"He's had a chance to sit behind, learn behind a Hall of Famer," Kubiak said. "His opportunity is going to come at some point and it's our job to make sure he's ready. ... I always tell young players nobody knows if you're taking care of your business until you're thrown in the fire. ... he's handled his business well."

For those with ESPN Insider access, NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has an interesting story linking some of the draft's top prospects to certain NFL teams based on how good a fit that player might be for a particular coach/system.

For Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota Kiper lists coach Andy ReidInsider and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Mariota would make a lot of sense for Reid, even if the Chiefs are committed to Alex Smith as their quarterback. Kiper cites the success of Donovan McNabb as Reid's quarterback for many seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles as a reason Mariota would flourish in Kansas City.

But it's not going to happen. As Kiper suggests, Mariota is going to be long gone by the time the Chiefs pick at No. 18 in the first round. The price for the Chiefs to move into the top few picks would be astronomical and, with Smith on board, there's no evidence the Chiefs are inclined to pay it.

Still, it's fun to think about. Reid even addressed Mariota to reporters at this week's NFL owners meetings in Phoenix, though he made it abundantly clear he knew the Chiefs have no realistic chance to draft Mariota.

"If I'm in a position to draft him -- which I'm not [because] he's going to go much higher than where I'm at -- I would try and spend as much time with him as I possibly could to see if he fits into what I'm doing," Reid said. "That's the name of the game.

"I didn't have an opportunity to visit with him. I'll tell you, he's a pretty good player. That part I can tell you. I don't know about the personality and all of that, but he's a pretty good football player."

Reid may not have met with Mariota. But he said he went as far as to ask Chiefs' punt returner/slot receiver De'Anthony Thomas about his collegiate teammate. Thomas played with Mariota at Oregon.

"Just from afar, I listen to what his teammates say," Reid said. "I've got one on my team and I talked to him about him. I asked him about him. And he goes, 'This guy is unbelievable. Great leader, great person.'

"Again, this is from afar [but] I didn't see any red flags."

Andy Reid saw the Oakland Raiders at their best in 2014.

Even though Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs easily dispatched Oakland in the two teams' final meeting of 2014, Reid is clearly moving forward in his thinking that the Raiders will be more like the team the Chiefs ran into on a rainy Oakland night in November. The Raiders played inspired, determined football, beating the Chiefs in front of a national Thursday night audience for their first win of the season after starting 0-10.

Speaking at the NFL owners meeting, Reid was asked about the competitiveness of the AFC West. He did not forget to praise the Raiders, who went 3-13 last year.

“Oakland, even though their record wasn’t as good as they wanted, they brought in some good, young players,” Reid said. “You can see this foundation starting to build there with the things Reggie [McKenzie] has done. He goes and hires Jack Del Rio, and I think that’s a pretty good situation. They have a ton of cap space and an opportunity to build. All of a sudden you look at the AFC West, and they’re kind of on the rise and you’re very familiar with the AFC West so you know. It’s very competitive.”

Reid also went out of his way to praise second-year quarterback Derek Carr.

“Jack's got a good situation,” Reid said. “That kid [Carr] can play. Like, really play.”

Carr and the Raiders hope Reid sees more of the November Raiders than the December Raiders in the future.

Tight end Travis Kelce had a nice and perhaps unexpected debut season for the Kansas City Chiefs last year. He led the Chiefs in catches (67) and receiving yards (862) and for the most part was the one receiver the Chiefs could count on in an otherwise lethargic passing game.

That has coach Andy Reid and the Chiefs dreaming of better things from Kelce. They felt comfortable enough with him to release veteran tight end Anthony Fasano, thus making available more playing time for Kelce.

[+] EnlargeTravis Kelce
John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/Getty ImagesTravis Kelce was sixth among NFL tight ends in receptions last season.

Reid called Kelce elite this week at the NFL meetings in Phoenix.

“Absolutely,’’ Reid told reporters. “Tremendously talented. Loves to play the game. He’s like a little kid out there.

“You’d think the natural progression would be more and better and he was pretty good last year.’’

Kelce missed almost all of the 2013 season, which would have been his rookie year, because of an ailing knee. He was better last year, but the Chiefs weren’t quite comfortable giving Kelce a lot of playing time early in the season.

He forced his way into more of that with an eight-catch, 93-yard, one-touchdown game against the New England Patriots in Week 4.

“You could see the progress every week in a positive direction,’’ Reid said. “We kept adding to his menu there, plays that we wanted to dial up and formations and motions. Running backs and tight ends, they have to know what they’re doing with those. He continually got better with that as time went on.’’

Reid said Kelce played at about 250 pounds last season but wants him bigger this year. He indicated he believed Kelce could handle an additional 15 pounds without losing speed or quickness.

“It helps you in protection,’’ he said. “He’s got a good feel for that, kind of a knack. He got better at the line of scrimmage. He had dropped some weight early and he was able to gain some weight as we went on. He played as high as 265 at the college level, where I considered him a pretty good blocker. So he can function even with a little more weight added.’’

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With the official opening of the Denver Broncos’ offseason program still three weeks away, coach Gary Kubiak can’t say how the team’s offensive line will look, but he can guarantee one thing awaits all those involved.

And that’s a clean slate.

Kubiak said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix that strengthening the team’s offensive front is still a priority and the returning players from last year’s group will get a fresh start.

[+] EnlargeGary Kubiak
John Leyba/The Denver Post/Getty ImagesImproving the offensive line is a top priority for coach Gary Kubiak and the Broncos.

Asked Tuesday where things stood in the offensive line at the moment, Kubiak quickly said Ryan Clady is the team’s left tackle, Louis Vasquez is, as expected, going back to right guard where he was a first-team All-Pro in 2013 and that Manny Ramirez could be in the competition at center.

“Obviously our left tackle [Clady], Manny Ramirez and … Vasquez -- those guys have been pretty much staples of what’s going on,’’ Kubiak said to the media at the AFC coaches’ breakfast. “ … I would say those three guys have been anchors in what they’ve been doing and then from there we’re going to have to have a very competitive situation.’’

In early November, as their struggles up front continued to grow, the Broncos moved Vasquez from right guard to right tackle, moved Ramirez from center to right guard, and moved Will Montgomery from a backup role to center. The lineup stayed that way for the remainder of the season, but at times the Broncos simply could not repair their issues in pass protection, particularly in the middle of the formation.

The Broncos also saw their running backs being hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on a third of their carries, and Kubiak said the Broncos will have an eye on the position in the draft and free agency, including Montgomery.

“Obviously we have to get better up front,’’ Kubiak said. “ … But we think a lot of the young guys, we really do.’’

Kubiak has also consistently said with offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and offensive line coach Clancy Barone in teaching roles, the Broncos were fully prepared to toss the younger players on the roster into the developmental mix, but a returning veteran like Chris Clark will start on even ground with the new staff.

“I told Chris, ‘We’re going to let last year go and we’re going to start over,’ and he’s done some good things,’’ Kubiak said. “I think it’s a fresh start for everybody. Obviously we’re not done trying to improve up front … the keys is going to be these young guys we have.’’

While Ramirez has started games at center for the Broncos in the past, including in the Super Bowl season in 2013, Kubiak said he believes Matt Paradis, a 2014 draft pick who spent last season on the practice squad, is an option and Tuesday Kubiak added that Dennison and Barone believe Ben Garland might eventually be a center prospect as well. It would be the third position move for Garland, who started his career with the Broncos in 2010, before his active duty stint in the Air Force, as a defensive lineman before being moved to guard.

Kubiak wants free-agent signee Shelley Smith, who has played guard and center in Kubiak’s offense with the Houston Texans, to concentrate on playing guard. With Vasquez moving back to right guard and Orlando Franklin having left in free agency, the Broncos could give Garland a look at left guard along with Smith and a likely draft pick.

Michael Schofield, a ’14 draft pick who was inactive for every game last season, will get a look at right tackle, as will Clark.

“We like the Schofield kid, too, so we’ll see," Kubiak said. "We think he’s got some flexibility. But those three older guys will continue to go [Clady, Vasquez and Ramirez], but after that it will just be very competitive.’’

Kubiak said he’d like to have things settled by the time the Broncos close out all of their OTA workouts and minicamps by mid-June in order to take a new starting offensive front into training camp.

“We’re going to kind of take it a step at a time and see how much progress we can make this offseason,’’ Kubiak said.

PHOENIX -- With the loss of running back Ryan Mathews to the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency, the San Diego Chargers are in need of a workhorse running back who can handle the majority of the carries.

While San Diego likely will look to the draft or free agency for that every-down back, Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said that player could already be on the roster -- Branden Oliver, the team’s leading rusher last season.

[+] EnlargeBranden Oliver
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesBranden Oliver gave the Chargers valuable production as a rookie in 2014.

“Ryan was very unique,” McCoy said. “He’s different than what we have now. But as that physical guy, yes, you can say Branden is that physical guy we have now.”

An undrafted rookie free agent out of Buffalo, Oliver finished with 582 rushing yards and three touchdowns, averaging 3.6 yards per carry. He twice rushed for over 100 yards in a game. The Chargers also get Danny Woodhead back from a broken ankle, and Donald Brown rounds out the running back group.

“We can win with the three guys we have now,” McCoy said. “I believe that. We’re going to play them all. So, they’re all going to play in their own way, and we’ll see what happens through the draft and the rest of free agency with what’s available.”

McCoy went on to say Oliver was fortunate to join an experienced running back room that included Woodhead, Mathews and Brown, so he could learn from all three of those players.

In other Chargers news:

  • McCoy said that recent free-agent addition Jimmy Wilson will compete with Jahleel Addae for the starting strong safety job left vacant when Marcus Gilchrist signed with the New York Jets in free agency. “As you’ve seen the last two years, we’re going to let everybody compete,” McCoy said. “And we’re going to play the best 11 guys. That’s a message we give the first day of the offseason program. We’re going to give everyone an opportunity through OTAs, minicamp and things like that --training camp -- to show us what you can do.”
  • Getting tight end Ladarius Green more involved in the offense will be a point of emphasis again this offseason, McCoy said. The Chargers effectively used a lot of three-receiver sets last season, which limited Green’s snap counts on game day “He works extremely hard,” McCoy said. “I don’t think it was anything he was doing physically out there. It was just a matter of philosophically what we were doing with the players we had. ... We need to use him more.”
  • McCoy confirmed what Chargers general manager Tom Telesco told reporters earlier this month -- D.J. Fluker is penciled in as the team’s right tackle, for now. However, McCoy said the team will play the best starting five up front, and there’s a chance Fluker could be moved inside down the road. “Right now he’s at right tackle with the way our roster is set right now, but that could change,” McCoy said. “And we’ll see over time what’s the best spot is for him. But I think the success he had two years ago, and the success he had throughout the year last year in what he could do, he can play tackle easily in this league. He’s done it for two years for us.”
  • McCoy said he’s not concerned about the stadium situation. “I’m coaching the team to win today -- that’s what I’m doing,” he said. “When Dean Spanos hired me, and the rest of the organization hired me to be the head coach, it’s to put a team together that competes week in and week out, and that’s what we’re going to do this year. It’s about winning. I can’t control the other things outside. My job is to lead the team, lead the players and do what we’re supposed to do.”

One of the Oakland Raiders’ biggest needs is defensive end. The team did not address it this offseason, but they are expected to use an early draft pick on an edge pass-rusher.

The Raiders, who had 22 just sacks last season, tied for the second fewest in the NFL, do have an in-house option – Khalil Mack. he No. 5 overall pick played outside linebacker as a rookie last season, but he did line up at defensive end in some packages. New Oakland coach Jack Del Rio said that should be the case this season as well.

“He plays defensive end for us already in sub packages,” Del Rio told reporters Tuesday at a breakfast at the NFL owners meetings. “So, I think it would be natural for him to be able to play whatever we decide is best for him, how it helps the team best. The number of sub snaps in the league has gone up dramatically each year. Up to 70 percent of your snaps you’re facing three- and four-receiver sets and so a sub packages where Khalil is an end is the one that really is the most prominent. He’s definitely shown he’s got ability to be an edge rusher, a defensive end, he is that in that capacity. I feel like it’s how we best want to utilize him and who we have around him as well.”

Join us today at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT for NFL Nation TV's Spreecast Episode 49 as we welcome in draft hopeful Brett Hundley and break down the latest in offseason league news.

Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) will be joined all show by Jeremy Fowler (Cleveland Browns and ESPN senior reporter), in addition to Hundley and two other NFL Nation reporters. Wells and Gutierrez will provide updates from the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix.

Fresh off a record-setting career at UCLA, Hundley is one of the many former college players hoping to be claimed in this year's draft that begins April 30. He's regarded as one of the top quarterbacks in this year's class. He'll stop by for a few moments to discuss his pre-draft journey, and how prepared he believes he is for the NFL.

Also, Todd Archer (Dallas Cowboys reporter) will chat about Greg Hardy's recent free-agency signing in Big D, and the reaction it has sparked there.

Ben Goessling (Minnesota Vikings reporter) will fill us in on the latest in the Adrian Peterson saga. Are the words of Peterson's agent a benefit or a hindrance? Also, what was up with the camel-riding birthday celebration the embattled rusher had over the weekend?

Fowler will help close things down by discussing the latest in the Browns' quarterback soap opera, and the television show they could be featured on later this summer.

Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.

Shortly after the end of the season, I looked back at the Kansas City Chiefs decisions from last year to let many of their free agents sign with other teams. The Chiefs lost, among other players, offensive linemen Branden Albert (pictured), Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah, slot receiver/punt returner Dexter McCluster, defensive lineman Tyson Jackson, and defensive backs Quintin Demps and Kendrick Lewis.

Though the Chiefs could have used the stability that just one of those offensive linemen could have provided, I thought the Chiefs were making the right decision in almost every case. The reality even before the NFL awarded compensatory picks was those players were of more value to their new teams than they were to the Chiefs. The Chiefs were smart not to mindlessly chase them at other teams’ prices.

Monday saw the Chiefs claim four draft picks this year to compensate for those losses. The Chiefs will get an extra choice in the third round, two additional picks in the fifth, and one more in the sixth.

That gives the Chiefs 10 total picks. They already had their own pick in each of the seven rounds except the fifth.

This further validates the Chiefs’ free-agent decisions from last year. It makes those choices in retrospect no-brainers.

The best player of last year’s bunch is Albert and the Chiefs, directly or indirectly, received that extra third-round pick for losing him. Let’s look at just his case.

All things being equal, Albert is worth more than a third-round pick. He’s one of the NFL’s best left tackles.

But there are factors involved that make Albert very much worth a third-round pick to the Chiefs. The first is they have Eric Fisher, the first player picked in the 2013 draft. Fisher hasn’t approached Albert’s level as a player and if he never does, the mistake made here by the Chiefs is in drafting Fisher and not in letting Albert go.

Another is Albert’s contract. He received a five-year contract from the Miami Dolphins worth $47 million, with $26 million guaranteed. Good players are worth paying, but the Chiefs at some point have to make decisions about which ones to keep and which ones to let walk.

The last is injuries. Through no apparent fault of his own, Albert has become an unreliable player. He missed five starts in 2012 because of back spasms, four starts in 2013 because of a knee injury, and seven games for Miami last season because of another knee injury. So he’s missed in total one season’s worth of games over the past three.

Maybe Albert is brittle. Maybe he’s just extremely unlucky. But there was no luck involved when the Chiefs let him go.

That was just smart.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos got some much needed draft help Monday, or at least the potential for some much needed draft help.

Or as the team's top football decision-maker, John Elway, has put it; "you want the picks, but then you have to hit the picks, you've got to make them count, find some good football players who can be productive Denver Broncos."

The Broncos were awarded four compensatory draft picks by the NFL for their net free agency losses in 2014, pushing their original total of six selections to 10 picks in this year's draft on April 30 to May 2 in Chicago.

Denver received a fourth-round pick, a sixth-round pick and two seventh-round picks. Denver now has the potential for the team's first 10-player draft class since 2009.

And given starters and key depth players can found all over the board in a seven-round draft -- the Broncos had three starters alone last year in cornerback Chris Harris Jr., running back C.J. Anderson and long snapper Aaron Brewer who were all originally signed as undrafted rookies -- the Broncos are at a point with the salary cap and on the depth chart they need to make them all count.

The draft is a decidedly inexact endeavor, but the teams that succeed at it season after season consistently find the "fit" players well into the second and third days of the draft.

In Elway's four previous drafts since taking his current job the Broncos have had some quality hits and also some misses from the fourth round on. They also have some players who they still believe, and hope, will grow into key contributors.

The Broncos have three players selected from the fourth round on in those four drafts who have been starters and are still under contract with the team -- tight end Virgil Green (7th round in 2011), defensive end/tackle Malik Jackson (5th round in 2012) and linebacker Danny Trevathan (6th round in 2012).

They have one other player – tight end Julius Thomas (4th round in 2011) -- who was a starter as well as a two-time Pro Bowl selection before he signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this month as an unrestricted free agent. Safety Quinton Carter (4th round in 2011) also started 10 games in 2011 for the Broncos before knee troubles derailed his career and he is an unsigned unrestricted free agent.

The Broncos selected five players form the fourth round on in those drafts who are no longer on the roster and didn't have a significant impact with the team while they were in Denver -- Mike Mohamed, Jeremy Beal, Philip Blake, Tavarres King and Vinston Painter -- though Mohamed did play in 14 games, with two starts, this past season for the Houston Texans.

The Broncos also have five other players still on the current roster who were selected from the fourth round on in those last four drafts who have not yet been starters, but the Broncos continue to hope they can carve out bigger roles.

In particular Elway has mentioned center Matt Paradis (6th round in 2014) as one of those players who could step forward for a far bigger role in the coming season. Paradis spent the 2014 season on the practice squad. Linebackers Lamin Barros (5th round in 2014) and Corey Nelson (7th round in 2014) each played a smattering of snaps on defense last season and each was a regular on special teams.

And Quanterus Smith (5th round in 2013) has potential to find some snaps in the new 3-4 defense if he can put his knee troubles behind him -- he has spent time on injured reserve in each of the last two seasons after an ACL tear in his senior season at Western Kentucky. Quarterback Zac Dysert (7th round in 2013) has spent the last two seasons, one on the practice squad and one on the active roster as the team's No. 3 quarterback.

In this draft the Broncos will have the newly-arrived fourth-round pick to go with two picks each in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. And since compensatory picks cannot be traded the Broncos' ability to make those picks count will directly impact how aggressive they feel they need to be in the free agency market in the seasons ahead.

As Elway has put it: "We want those homegrown players, we want to hit those picks ... to stack those drafts."

PHOENIX -- After days of speculation that the team was ready to move on from Philip Rivers, the San Diego Chargers finally went on the offensive, with general manager Tom Telesco putting to rest rumors that the 33-year-old quarterback was on the trading block.

[+] EnlargePhilip Rivers
AP Photo/Ed ZurgaThe Chargers say they have no plans to trade franchise quarterback Philip Rivers.

Telesco's unwillingness to part ways with Rivers, who's heading into the final year of his deal, is about common sense. The Chargers know they can win with Rivers and have no potential replacement that can perform at his level currently on their roster, through the draft, a trade or free agency.

Telesco and Chargers coach Mike McCoy are in Year 3 of building San Diego into a sustainable playoff contender. The two believe with the way the roster is currently constructed that the Chargers can compete with the Denver Broncos for an AFC West crown and ultimately make a Super Bowl run.

But those goals go out the window by trading Rivers for a handful of draft picks with a team like the Tennessee Titans in order to move up to No. 2 overall and select a developmental quarterback such as Marcus Mariota.

While talented, Mariota is likely a few years away from leading an NFL team to the playoffs. And he's not a fit for what San Diego likes to do scheme-wise, based on how offensive coordinator Frank Reich has designed the offense.

Yes, we can connect the dots with the Titans. Former San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is there, along with Rivers' good buddy Charlie Whitehurst, who serves as a backup quarterback for the Titans.

Living in Nashville, a little more than 100 miles from Rivers' hometown of Decatur, Alabama, would give the NC State product the stability he seeks for his wife Tiffany and seven children.

But the Chargers are not giving up on Rivers because he means too much to the success of their franchise. He's durable, sets the tone in the building and is one of a handful of quarterbacks in the NFL who gives you a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter with the ball in his hands.

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- He didn’t want to quite call it a first impression, but Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson had to wait far longer than he wanted to make his best impression on the NFL’s talent evaluators.

Grayson, one of the top passing prospects in this year’s draft, had suffered a hamstring injury Feb. 10 in a workout to prepare the league’s scouting combine. As a result, Grayson could not throw at the combine and did not throw March 11 at Colorado State’s pro day.

It all made Monday’s workout, with just Grayson and Colorado State wide receiver Charles Lovett taking part, a rather large chips-in-the-middle-of-the-table affair.

[+] EnlargeGarrett Grayson
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesGarrett Grayson on his workout for NFL scouts: "I was happy with my performance today ... I think I proved I can make all the throws."

"Last night, I’ll be honest, I got a little nervous and usually I don’t get nervous," Grayson said. " ... Last night I couldn’t fall asleep for anything ... I’m definitely happy to have this day over with."

Grayson was 70-of-74 passing in the workout, and one of the incompletions was a drop by Lovett. Grayson performed a variety of throws from three-, five- and seven-step dropbacks to go with a smattering of roll-out throws. Grayson did his jumps -- 34-inch vertical, and a 10-feet, 1-inch broad jump -- and ran his 40-yard dashes (a 4.60-second hand-timed was his best).

Grayson, who measured 6-2 and weighed 213 pounds at the combine, said he weighed 214 Monday. It will be Grayson’s only throwing session for scouts as a group before next month’s draft, but he has private workouts in the coming weeks on campus with the Miami Dolphins, St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers.

"I’ve been, honestly, just waiting to get this over with, just been training for the past three months, so it’s been a long process," Grayson said. "Obviously was a little bummed couldn’t do anything at the combine. I was happy with my performance today ... I think I proved I can make all the throws so, again, was happy with it. Biggest thing for me is I know I can go under center -- with Coach (Jim McElwain) we did it a lot -- but this past season we were probably 90 percent (shotgun), so I wanted to prove to everybody that I can take the five-step, the seven-step drops, under center and throw with accuracy."

Grayson is among the quarterbacks most personnel executives say is among those in the "next" grouping after the top two quarterbacks on the board -- Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.

Grayson threw for 4,006 yards this past season with 32 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Vancouver, Washington, native said he has spent the past six weeks since his injury continuing to prepare, pointing toward Monday’s workout.

So much so that Grayson said his two 40-yard dashes were the first two times he has sprinted since the injury. He was concerned enough about it that he flip-flopped the order of his workout.

Most often players will do the jumps, cone drills and 40-yard dashes before any on-field, positional work. However, Grayson did his throwing session to open the workout, then did the rest of the drills and ran his 40-yard dashes.

"To be honest I didn’t know how I was going to do because I haven’t ran, sprinted or anything, since it happened," Grayson said. "What you guys just saw was my first sprint in over a month. That gives me confidence going forward that I can move without something happening. I knew at the end of the day quarterbacks don’t get paid to run 40s, they get paid to throw the ball. I wanted to make sure if something did happen with my hamstring, my throws, at least I got that out."

Grayson said he will leave Tuesday for Florida to sit down with ESPN analyst Jon Gruden on Wednesday as part of "Gruden’s QB Camp."