Broncos head coach Sean Payton explains unorthodox Russell Wilson decision

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Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton has hinted that Russell Wilson could play in the pre-season opener vs Arizona Cardinals (Image: Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton has hinted that Russell Wilson could play in the pre-season opener vs Arizona Cardinals (Image: Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton has confirmed that star quarterback Russell Wilson is in contention to play in the team’s preseason opener.

The Broncos have three preseason games throughout August to get the team up to speed ahead of the 2023 NFL regular season. The first game takes place on Aug. 11 against the Arizona Cardinals, before games against the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams.

Typically, NFL head coaches like to use the backup players from the roster in most, if not all, pre-season games. It’s certainly rare for a team to use their starting quarterback in the very first preseason game.

However, it seems that Payton is planning to have Wilson involved for the first game of the pre-season. In comparison, New York Jets star Aaron Rodgers was on the sidelines for the Hall of Fame Game against the Cleveland Browns, with Zach Wilson starting.

Payton was speaking after practice on Saturday when he was asked if he was planning on using any of his starters in the game against the Cardinals. And it seems that Payton, who is preparing for his first season as coach of the Broncos, will go for a more traditional approach to preseason preparations.

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"I haven't shelled it out yet, but they're gonna play," Payton said. "We'll figure out how many snaps. We typically break down a game into three phases. We'll have a plan, especially when we get into next week.

"I don't have a pitch count. I don't have an exclusion list. We can expect to see our guys play a little bit.”

Payton was also asked if that tactic applied to Wilson, who is getting ready for his 12th season in the NFL and second with the Broncos. When asked if Wilson will play, Payton said, "He is a player."

As well as Wilson, the Broncos also have Jarrett Stidham and Ben DiNucci in the QB in reserve to use in the preseason. However, Wilson will still be the starting quarterback for Week 1 of the 2023 NFL regular season.

The Broncos take on AFC West rivals the Las Vegas Raiders in the opening game of the season on Sept. 10. It will be here that Payton experiences his first competitive game in charge of the franchise.

Payton is getting ready for his first season with the Broncos, after joining the team as head coach in January. The 59-year-old had been with the New Orleans Saints before the Broncos agreed on a trade to hire Payton.

Mark Wakefield

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