ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Upon further review, Bradley Roby is trying to shrug off the stinging judgment call from the booth.
The Denver Broncos cornerback drew criticism from ESPN commentator and longtime Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten for standing around on a run play in the closing minutes of a loss to the Oakland Raiders on “Monday Night Football.”
Roby’s about to head into free agency and being called out for the perception of quitting on a play didn’t exactly sit well.
“I just felt like it was kind of unnecessary,” said Roby, whose Broncos (6-9) close out the season Sunday by hosting a Los Angeles Chargers (11-4) team still in contention for the AFC West title. “On the play, it did look like I stopped. So I understand where he’s coming from. But I didn’t feel like it was necessary.”
This has been an up-and-down season for the fifth-year defensive back who the Broncos were banking on so heavily they traded Aqib Talib to the Los Angeles Rams last March. Roby went from primarily playing the nickel spot to lining up opposite of Chris Harris Jr. It’s been a steep learning curve. Now Roby’s covering No. 1 targets with Harris sidelined by a broken leg.
Still, Roby’s shown flashes of promise. There was his performance on Oct. 18 at Arizona when he picked off Josh Rosen’s pass and had a career-best four passes defensed. He’s shown toughness, too. Exhibit A: Taking the field after needing five stitches for a laceration on his chin which he could stick his tongue through.
His biggest obstacle, though, has been consistency.
“At times, he plays up and down,” defensive coordinator Joe Woods said. “The last couple of weeks, we moved him inside. He’s played some nickel. I thought he played the last couple of weeks pretty well.”
The comments from Witten initially stung Roby, who was lining up outside on a run play just before the two-minute warning and continued next to a receiver on the outside as Doug Martin ran up the middle. Witten said on the broadcast that if he was Broncos coach Vance Joseph, he would have pulled Roby.
“It was really a mistake. I thought the play was over, I was wrong,” said Roby, a first-round pick in 2014 out of Ohio State. “But for him to say that, it just made me mad.”
Woods’ take on the situation was direct: “We want our guys playing with max effort all the time. I don’t question our guys’ effort. I think he could’ve got off that block and played a little better there. But we’re always pushing that to try to get the guys to play as hard as they can on every single play.”
Roby thought the comments might have due to his trash talking with Witten when the Broncos beat the Cowboys last season.
“Maybe he remembers me from that or I don’t know,” Roby said. “He just has to learn the power that he has and the perception. I really wasn’t going to say anything about it, but I just know that people listen, people believe stuff like that. … I don’t fault him. I’m not mad about it. I just want to defend myself because I don’t want people thinking a certain way about me when I made a mistake.”
Roby’s attempted to hold things together in a depleted secondary that’s missing Harris since he fractured his right fibula when a player fell on him in a win at Cincinnati on Dec. 2. Roby’s best resume is game film and he has one final chance to leave a lasting impression as Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen arrive in town. Allen needs seven catches for a second straight 100-reception season.
“I’m just going to go out there and do my job,” Roby said. “That’s all I can worry about. That’s all I can control. … Finish the season off strong. I believe we should do that, and I’m going to do everything I can to do that.”
NOTES: WR Andre Holmes (ankle) didn’t practice Thursday. … CB Brendan Langley cleared the concussion protocol. … Joseph won’t limit the playing time of pass rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb despite the team being out of the playoff chase. … Undrafted rookie RB Phillip Lindsay is slated to have surgery on his wrist and needs three to four months of rehab. That means missing the Pro Bowl. But Miller said if Lindsay wants to go to the Pro Bowl, he has space in his room. A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for Lindsay.
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