CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Broncos coach Vance Joseph respects his players' rights and beliefs, but will seek the best plan to "keep our football team together" following last Sunday's protests during the national anthem.
"I am going to meet with our players later this week," Joseph said. "Because, again, at the end of the day, it's about winning the football game and keeping our football team together. "
Joseph understood the players' emotional response to President Trump's inflammatory statements last Friday, as Trump urged NFL owners to "fire (S.O.B.) players" who don't stand for the anthem. The majority of Broncos players knelt before Sunday's game at Buffalo, a demonstration of solidarity against Trump.
Von Miller, the team's most visible player, participated because he said the President's words "were an attack on the NFL." As linebacker Brandon Marshall articulated Monday, "It ignited a flame in a lot of people. And regardless of what he says, it won't stop the good work we do in the community. It won't stop the message. A lot of people they agree with the President. And a lot of people agree with us."
With the support of the majority of team owners, roughly 250 players knelt in silent protest, raised a fist in the air or stood and locked arms. In the previous Sunday, there were approximately 10 players who protested during the anthem.
"It wasn't really a message to the president. It was something we felt as a group needed to be fixed, and we took a knee for it," Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas said Monday.
The question now becomes how do teams, the Broncos specifically, move forward? Marshall and Thomas said Monday they were unsure of what would happen next. Marshall indicated that multiple players would likely discuss the issue.
Joseph explained he believes in standing for the anthem because he was "raised that way." Yet, he respects players staging a peaceful protest. How do these elements intertwine without becoming a distraction?
"I don't think it is a distraction for the players. I really don't. I think it's a separate issue. Some of the guys feel strongly about their beliefs and their comments that were made. But I think once the football is kicked, the players play football. I think we've dug too deep into it being a football distraction," Joseph said. "Now I will tell you this. I think it should be a separate issue. It should not be part of what we're doing on Sundays. That's my personal opinion. ... Hopefully we can move past this and play football because politics and football don't mix in in my opinion."
Marshall knelt for eight games last season, stopping after seeing positive change in use-of-force training policies in the Denver Police department. He took exception to the idea that the players' message has been lost.
"People just want to focus on what they want. It's the flag, it's the flag, it's the flag. I heard (Hall of Famer and current sports TV personality) Shannon Sharpe say today that we love this country. Which we do. We want to make it better for minorities. The racial inequalities, we want to tighten that up, and fix that," Marshall said. "When people say you should leave this country, that's not what you do. When you have an issue, I think we should come together and try to solve it, not just leave the country. That's actually ridiculous."
Veteran defensive end Derek Wolfe and rookie left tackle Garett Bolles were among the 19 Broncos players who stood for the anthem. Wolfe insisted the issue would not divide the locker room.
"We can all have our own opinions and it's still fine," Wolfe said. "You're allowed to have your own opinion. That's the point of being a human — is that you're allowed to feel and think the way that you want to feel and think. That's the great part about being a human being."