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Diaz-Infante cut as Broncos trim roster
Posted: Sunday September 05, 1999 06:25 PM
Former Air Force linebacker Steve Russ, running back Leeland McElroy and two former University of Colorado standouts -- offensive tackle Tony Berti and defensive tackle Viliami Maumau -- also were among the cuts.
Others released in the final cut down were offensive tackles Scott Adams and Melvin Tuten; quarterback Jeff Brohm; wide receivers Billy Miller and Taj Johnson; defensive ends Carl Reeves, Marvin Thomas and Shane Doyle; linebacker Dave Thomas and cornerbacks Darwin Brown and Jason Suttle.
In two other roster moves, the Broncos placed safety Tori Noel on injured reserve because of a season-ending neck injury and officially placed quarterback John Elway on the retired list.
Although Elway announced his retirement last spring, the Broncos had considered keeping him on the roster this season, which would have provided some salary-cap relief next season. The Broncos ultimately decided to absorb his significant financial impact now.
Elway will count for $3.9 million against their cap this season and another $5 million next season.
Veteran defensive end Neil Smith, believed to be on the bubble, survived when the Broncos cut Reeves instead. The Broncos apparently decided that as long as Smith could accept a reduced role, he would be a valuable player to have on the roster.
Diaz-Infante, a starter entering last season until he suffered a knee injury, got a surprise call Saturday afternoon from coach Mike Shanahan. Summoned to Shanahan's office, Diaz-Infante thought the Broncos wanted only to cut his salary.
"It's kind of a shocker, but you're never completely surprised," Diaz-Infante said. "They're always trying to find guys younger and cheaper than me.
"I won two Super Bowls with these guys, and these are guys I've become close with. That's what hurts. It's not the football part. I feel terribly lucky to do what I've done. Hopefully there will be another job out there because I would like to play one more year."
Diaz-Infante, 35, started a total of nine games for the Broncos in 1996 and 1997 and was projected to be the starter at right guard in 1998 after Brian Habib signed with Seattle. He suffered a knee injury in the preseason, however, and lost his job to Dan Neil, who started all 16 games and remains the starter at the position.
Diaz-Infante was a victim because the Broncos kept only eight offensive linemen, compared with 10 a year ago.
In return, the Broncos loaded up at other offensive positions, keeping four tight ends, six wide receivers and six running backs.
Denver wound up keeping seven rookies -- running back Olandis Gary, wide receiver Travis McGriff, tight end Desmond Clark, defensive end Montae Reagor, linebackers Al Wilson and David Bowens and cornerback/kick returner Chris Watson.
Gary felt his 69-yard rushing performance in Friday night's 34-3 preseason rout of San Francisco "was instrumental in me making the squad. I think the coaches saw another element that added to my game as far as power running and things like that. I think that assured them that I could play for the Denver Broncos."
Gary, a running back from Georgia, as is Terrell Davis, said his blocking and receiving skills also helped his cause.
"I was worried," he said. "They've got a great running backs corps, and any time you compete with five guys like that, you always have to be worried."
McGriff, Chris Doering and Andre Cooper competed throughout the preseason for what were believed to be two available spots at backup wide receiver. Instead, the Broncos kept all three.
They also kept a fourth tight end in Clark, a sixth-round draft choice who likely would have been claimed on waivers by another team had he been waived.
Russ apparently became expendable when relatively unknown linebacker Artie Ulmer made a number of big hits on special teams.
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