The left tackle attended the NFL Honors as the Broncos Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee.
LAS VEGAS — Don’t even start with talk of trading or cutting Garett Bolles because of salary cap reasons.
A starting left tackle all seven years he’s been in the NFL and the Broncos, Bolles in one sense has been around long enough to know no player is immune to such dastardly possibilities. Peyton Manning once got released. Another time he was forced to take a pay cut. Such is the tenuous life of a veteran player who has made it to the back-end, and therefore non-guaranteed, portion of his contract.
But there is no questioning where Bolles would prefer to play next season and then some.
“I’d love to be a Bronco for life,’’ Bolles said during his Red Carpet stroll Thursday prior to the NFL Honors program from the Resorts World Theatre. “I think it speaks volumes for a player who can play his entire career with one team.
“I’d love to be in Denver. It’s where my kids grew up. It’s where my wife is. It’s where they go to school. But at the same time the Good Lord knows where I need to be. It is a business.
“But I love everything about Denver. The fans. The people. The organization from top to bottom. I’m just very grateful to be a Denver Bronco.”
Bolles was here as a reward for becoming the Broncos’ Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee. All 32 nominees were invited to the NFL Honors program.
“It’s definitely been a humbling experience,’’ said Bolles, who attended the show with his wife Natalie. “It’s been an honor. Just grateful to represent one of the best organizations in football, the Denver Broncos and everything that we do on and off the field.”
It seems like the game’s biggest stars are those who win the NFL Man of the Year award. But Bolles would have had a chance if the voters could read his heart as he works with troubled youth on a regular basis. Bolles was once one of them and his life story resonates with the kids he mentors.
“All the kids that I’ve talked to – I think I’ve mentored over a 100 youth – I’ve gotten very personal with a lot of them,’’ Bolles said. “A lot of them I still talk to. They have my number, they text me, they call me.
“Some of them are out of the system. Some of them are in different homes to get the help they need. But just being there for them, being a mentor for them, it puts a smile on my face that I get to be there for them and show them I love them.”
All the buzz surrounding the Broncos’ offseason begins and ends with their quarterback position, especially after head coach Sean Payton benched Russell Wilson for the last two games and replaced him with Jarrett Stidham.
Wilson will likely be moving on. Stidham will have a chance to compete for the starting quarterback job but nothing will be promised.
“I love Russ,’’ Bolles said. “We have a great relationship. We probably text or call each other every day. But at the end of the day it’s my job to protect whoever’s back there.
“Coach Payton is going to do whatever he’s going to do. George (Paton, the general manager), the (owners) Penners are going to do what they need to do to help the organization win. And I’m going to do whatever I can to block for whoever is back there. I do love Russ. I think highly of him. At the same time it’s my job to protect.”
Will Bolles return to protect the Broncos’ quarterback’s blind side? A $16 million salary may be vulnerable for a cap-strapped team, but it’s about average for a starting left tackle. The Broncos would have a difficult time replacing him.
“I thought I had a good year,’’ Bolles said. “There’s some things I can work on for sure but overall I thought I played well. I thought I did my job well with pass protection. I definitely can do some things in the run game a little bit better but at the same time I thought we had a good season – we had that (five)-game win streak that was a lot of fun to be a part of. Probably the first time in my career, so winning is fun. I hope we get to win a lot more.”
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