ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Linebacker Brandon Marshall said the Broncos want to kill Brock Osweiler — metaphorically, of course. The Texans quarterback tried to kill his former teammates — with kindness.
The ex-Broncos QB said more than a dozen times during a conference call with Denver media Thursday that he had nothing but love, gratitude, respect or appreciation for his old teammates, organization, coaches, city and its fans.
He conceded that maybe he should have chosen his words more carefully when he declared at his introductory news conference in Houston that he chose the Texans over the Super Bowl champs because they gave him the "best opportunity to be successful."
He defended his decisions to skip the Broncos' White House trip and their ring ceremony last summer, saying he was too busy learning a new offense with a new team in a new city to celebrate Super Bowl 50 with them once again.
And he said the reason he didn't attend Peyton Manning's retirement news conference was that he was on vacation but did reach out to his mentor, thanked him and wished him well.
The Broncos (4-2) host the Texans (4-2) on Monday night in Osweiler's first game against the team that drafted him in 2012 and groomed him to replace Manning only to watch him spurn them for Houston's four-year, $72 million offer, about $8 million higher than they were willing to pay.
Osweiler, who went 5-2 when Manning was injured last year, said he understands fans' shock at his departure from Denver but said leaving wasn't something he did lightly.
"I'm not lying when I tell you, it was the hardest decision of my life," Osweiler said. "It was the hardest decision because I have nothing but gratitude, love, respect, appreciation for not only the organization but the fan base, the entire city of Denver because everybody was nothing but great to me in my four years."
Osweiler insisted that getting benched during the regular-season finale against San Diego and then watching the playoff run from the sidelines played no role in his decision to sign with Houston.
He said he was frustrated at getting pulled at first but quickly came to accept the decision because coach Gary Kubiak "always did what was best for the team and I trusted that and I believed in that."
"And then then final thing I would say on that topic, in the San Diego game, I got replaced by PEYTON MANNING. To make a playoff run. With a great football team. And I think any coach for that matter or any team in the National Football League, if they had Peyton Manning healthy and ready to play, I mean, I think we all know who's going to play in the game."
He said his relationship with Broncos general manager John Elway was still "great" but he did take a shot at the Broncos for not making a contract offer until free agency was about to begin.
Many former teammates say they don't begrudge Osweiler for leaving them.
"I don't think anybody in this locker room cares, honestly, that he left," Marshall said earlier this week. "I think everybody's happy that he got his money. When you're a player in this league, you're happy when another player gets his money, when he gets what he's due. So, everybody in this locker room, nobody has any ill will toward Brock.
"But at the same time, it's competition and we want to shut him down, just because it's Brock. We know Brock. He came from here and we want to kill him."
That comment has stirred a lot of reaction, but Osweiler said he doesn't "feel like a marked man" coming back to Denver.
Osweiler's departure 48 hours after Manning's retirement sent Elway and Gary Kubiak on a six-month search for Manning's successor . That ended up being Trevor Siemian, last year's No. 3 QB.
Osweiler said that while he enjoyed playing in Kubiak's system, the chance to play for Bill O'Brien in Houston "seemed like a phenomenal opportunity ... I was able to see Peyton play in similar systems in 2012, '13 and '14." That's why he said the Texans gave him the best chance at success, he said.
Asked what the Broncos could have done to keep him, he said: "I really don't want to get into hypotheticals or anything like that. Bottom line, Denver had the opportunity to extend an offer. In fact, they had a great, very long period of time to extend an offer."
They waited until Manning announced his retirement, and by then the Texans had decided they were going to outbid the Broncos and make Osweiler the crown jewel of the 2016 free agency class.
"I'm not mad at him for anything," Super Bowl MVP Von Miller said. "I want him to be the quarterback that the Houston Texans brought him in to be. I just want that much for Brock. I want the world for him — just not on Monday."