The Denver Broncos will admit a limited number of fans Sept. 27 when they host Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Colorado’s Governor, Jared Polis said Tuesday.
Polis credited efforts by the Broncos as well as by Colorado residents and businesses to slow the state’s infection rate in allowing 5,700 fans to attend the team’s second home game, which features Brady’s first appearance in Denver since leaving the Patriots.
The Broncos won’t have any fans at their Monday night season opener against the Tennessee Titans. Their third home game is Oct. 18 against the Miami Dolphins.
“Colorado is very much 'Orange Nation,” Polis said, adding of the virus: “We cannot let it defeat our spirits, and Broncos games are part of that spirit.”
The state worked with Brittany Bowlen, the Broncos' vice president of strategic initiatives and chair of the team’s COVID-19 task force, to develop the game plan. Bowlen had submitted a comprehensive coronavirus safety plan for Empower Field at Mile High to state health officials.
“Fans are a big part of our team. They bring our stadium to life,” Bowlen said, noting the plan will be evaluated afterward for increasing attendance.
Only five of the NFL’s 32 teams are allowing fans at their openers, including the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, who will have 16,000 spectators when they kick off the season Thursday hosting the Houston Texans.
State health orders limit individual outdoor gatherings to 175 people practicing safe social distancing with prior approval from health officials. The Broncos' plan for the Bucs game calls in part for small groups seated in different sections of the stadium; mask wearing and other protocols; and cashless concessions. Season ticket-holders will be entered into a lottery for tickets and parking passes.
Keeping fan groups small will make it easier for health workers to address and trace any outbreaks, Polis said.
To prepare for their opener, the Broncos held two stadium practices to get used to a fan-less environment.
On Monday night, crowd noise up to 70 decibels will be piped into the 76,000-plus-seat stadium that has been sold out for every Broncos game since 1970. Broadcasters will use sound curated by NFL Films on their telecasts with an audio operator running a sound board that can make the noise louder depending on game situations.
Polis said the Broncos' experiment will help other Colorado teams dealing with the pandemic, from the MLB’s Colorado Rockies to high school football teams.
DeAndre Hopkins, Cardinals agree on extension
The Cardinals agreed to a two-year contract extension with star receiver DeAndre Hopkins that will keep the three-time All-Pro in Arizona through the 2024 season.
The team announced the deal on Tuesday but didn’t disclose terms. The NFL Network reported that the extension is worth $54.5 million over two years. The receiver is guaranteed $42.75 million.
The deal, which Hopkins negotiated himself, also has a no-trade clause and no-franchise tag clause.
The Cardinals landed the 6-foot-1-inch, 212-pound Hopkins in a surprising trade with the Texans during the offseason, sending veteran running back David Johnson to Houston.
The 28-year-old Hopkins has been one of the NFL’s most consistent and productive receivers in recent years with at least 1,100 yards receiving in five of the past six seasons.
Kareem Hunt, Browns agree on two-year deal
Kareem Hunt has found a home — at home.
Suspended last season by the NFL for two physical off-field altercations, Hunt agreed to a two-year, $13.25 million contract extension with the Cleveland Browns, a person familiar with the deal told the Associated Press.
Hunt served his eight-game suspension after joining Cleveland as a free agent.
The contract includes $8.5 million guaranteed, the person said.
Hunt grew up in the Cleveland area and conveyed his appreciation in getting the extension on with an Instagram posting.
“Cleveland has always been home to me, and putting on the Orange & Brown has been THE dream growing up,” Hunt wrote. “Being able to make it official, and play my heart out for the city I love for the next few years is a blessing.”
Hunt led the NFL in rushing as a rookie with the Chiefs in 2017 when he gained 1,327 yards. He was thought to be part of Kansas City’s long-term plans, but the team parted ways with him after he wasn’t honest with them following an incident while he was in Cleveland.
Hunt was seen on videotape shoving and pushing a woman during an argument in the hallway of a Cleveland hotel. He wasn’t charged by police, but the altercation damaged his reputation and led to his league ban.
Giants cut CB Deandre Baker
The Giants officially cut ties with cornerback DeAndre Baker, waiving the former first-round draft choice who faces criminal charges in Florida related to an alleged armed robbery in May.
Baker will become a free agent if he clears waivers and was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list in late July. That amounted to paid administrative leave and made him ineligible to play in games or participate in practices. He had not participated in team activities with the Giants since the alleged incident on May 13 at a house party in Miramar, Fla.
Prosecutors have charged Baker with four counts of robbery with a firearm. Broward State Attorney Michael Satz’s office announced last month that Baker “is accused of stealing cash and watches from four men at a house party” in Miramar and faces up to life in prison if convicted, with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years.
QB Josh Rosen joins Buccaneers
Quarterback Josh Rosen has landed on the practice squad of the Buccaneers, where he’ll get to learn from Brady.
Rosen was the 10th overall pick in the 2018 draft by the Arizona Cardinals and is joining his third team in as many years.
He appeared in 14 games with 13 starts for Arizona as a rookie, then started three of six games he played with the Miami Dolphins, who acquired him in a 2019 trade.
The Dolphins released Rosen last week.
Washington coach Rivera misses practice to have cancer treatments
Washington Football coach Ron Rivera was not on the field in Ashburn, Va., as the team began its first practice in advance of Sunday’s season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. A team spokesman said that Rivera is in cancer treatments this week.