John Elway: Trading Manny Ramirez a 'hard call to make'


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the middle of the general excitement around the Denver Broncos' trade to land Shane Ray in Thursday night’s first round, GM John Elway paused to discuss the rest of the story.

The part that had center/guard Manny Ramirez included in the deal with the Detroit Lions to move up to take Ray with the No. 23 pick.

“And that was a hard call to make,’’ Elway said later Thursday night. “A really hard call."

Ramirez had started every game in the last two seasons for the Broncos, including in Super Bowl XLVIII, and started 43 games overall in his four seasons with the team. He was a starter at center as well as at guard.

And as the Broncos transitioned from the 4-12 cave-in that was the 2010 season to the new regime, Ramirez was one of those players who was on the ground floor, on the field and in the community, as the Broncos lifted themselves up out of the mess to have now won four consecutive AFC West titles.

“I talked to Manny, it was one of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had because of what kind of man Manny Ramirez is and what he’s done for this team the last [four] years that he’s been here," Elway said. “Just a tremendous person, and he has done everything in the community that the team’s ever asked him to do and he’s volunteered. He’s just a tremendous man. He’s been a tremendous football player for us. That was one of the hardest phone calls that I’ve ever had to make."

The Broncos and Lions had talked earlier this week leading up to Thursday night’s trade. The two teams were close to making a deal Wednesday, but couldn’t close it.

Thursday night the two teams did and the Lions wanted Ramirez along with the draft picks. Ramirez played the first four seasons of his career in Detroit, including the Lions’ 0-16 year in 2008.

“He is going to a home [where] they really wanted Manny," Elway said. “It’s where Manny started. We’ve had conversations on and off the last couple weeks, and they centered around Manny. They were very interested in Manny. He’s going to a good home where he is very much wanted."

Ramirez was going to have a difficult time keeping his starting spot in the Broncos’ move to a zone-blocking scheme that will feature more movement. The Broncos figure to have three new starters up front by the time the regular season begins with left tackle Ryan Clady and right guard Louis Vasquez as the only holdover starters from this past season.

This past season Ramirez said he “would always be grateful to the Broncos for seeing what I could do,’’ and when he was asked to describe his approach to the game, Ramirez said, “keep my head down, work my butt off and be ready to go.’’

With starting jobs open at right tackle, left guard and center, the Broncos will give a long look at the offensive linemen still on the draft board Friday and Saturday.