Get Up defends Russell Wilson Credit: Get Up on ESPN

The former NFL athletes on ESPN’s Get Up teed off on Sean Payton and the “classless” Denver Broncos on Friday morning for “undercutting” quarterback Russell Wilson after the team benched him this week.

Denver benched Wilson partly to avoid a potentially significant injury that would lock in $37 million guaranteed if he were hurt and unable to pass a physical by March. But subsequent reports also indicated the Broncos threatened this move weeks earlier unless Wilson removed the language in his contract guaranteeing him that money.

Once Wilson refused to do that amid a bounce-back season, Denver sent him to the bench to protect their money.

Ryan Clark and Dan Orlovsky had their pitchforks out for Payton and the Broncos on Friday’s Get Up.

Clark explained how Payton treated Wilson poorly from the minute he took the Denver job, especially compared with how he handled his relationship with Drew Brees in New Orleans while coaching the Saints.

“The business of it is not a problem to me,” Clark said. “But let’s be honest. Sean Payton has behaved as a thug since he became the coach of the Denver Broncos. Immediately when he gets in the building, he starts to undercut Russell Wilson personally and professionally from his first press conference on.”

Clark argued Denver put Wilson, a well-respected person in the NFL, in a position to fail the moment they hired Payton.

“I don’t think there was a thing Russell Wilson could do to make Sean Payton like him,” Clark said. “Let’s hold Sean Payton to some sort of professional accountability. His behavior as the head coach of the Denver Broncos is unacceptable. If I’m the Walton family, I do not want someone representing me this way.”

Orlovsky called Denver’s choices “unprofessional and classless.” The longtime quarterback argued that changing a contract and going behind a star QB’s back is “not the way you handle business in the NFL.”

“This is not about feelings,” Orlovsky said. “This is about the way that you treat someone that in many ways has always been a good representative of your organization and your league.”

While it may seem predictable for retired NFL athletes to defend Wilson, this goes a step further than defense. Clark and Orlovsky are going all the way up the chain of command in Denver to slam ownership, management and an active head coach in Payton over how they managed their star player.

As the Broncos look to rebuild, these words will likely hold weight around the league for players and coaches considering heading to Denver.

[Get Up]

About Brendon Kleen

Brendon is a Media Commentary staff writer at Awful Announcing. He has also covered basketball and sports business at Front Office Sports, SB Nation, Uproxx and more.