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Broncos defenders dispute the notion they're dirty

Associated Press Associated Press 13/09/2016
FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2016, file photo, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) lies on the turf after a roughing the passer penalty was called on Denver Broncos free safety Darian Stewart (26) during the second half of an NFL football game in Denver. s some Broncos players prepare to face the financial consequences of their helmet-to-helmet hits on Cam Newton, they insist they're not a dirty defense, although they don't really mind if that's their reputation. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2016, file photo, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) lies on the turf after a roughing the passer penalty was called on Denver Broncos free safety Darian Stewart (26) during the second half of an NFL football game in Denver. s some Broncos players prepare to face the financial consequences of their helmet-to-helmet hits on Cam Newton, they insist they're not a dirty defense, although they don't really mind if that's their reputation. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney, File)

ENGLEWOOD, Colorado — Nasty, hard-hitting, wicked. Sure. But dirty? No way, say the Denver Broncos.

"I just don't think that's what we are," linebacker Todd Davis said. "We're not malicious. We don't intentionally go to hurt anybody. We just play hard. We play physical."

What about all those helmet-to-helmet hits on Cam Newton in the NFL's season-opening game, then?

"Just because we hit Cam in the head a couple of times, that doesn't make us dirty," insisted linebacker Brandon Marshall, who had one of four helmet-to-helmet hits on Carolina's quarterback in the Broncos' 21-20 win over the Panthers on Thursday.

The brutality of the game sparked debates over league safety, sideline concussion protocol, the ability of Newton to survive, much less continue to thrive, as a read-option quarterback, and yes, whether Denver's devastating defense crossed the line from dominant to dirty.

Although none of the helmet hits on Newton, the NFL's Most Valuable Player last season, resulted in penalty yardage and none got him checked for a concussion, Marshall said he's expecting a letter in his locker Wednesday informing him of a hefty fine.

Safety Darian Stewart, whose helmet-to-helmet hit left Newton motionless on the ground in the game's final minute, is bracing for such a letter, too. His hit drew a flag but it was negated by intentional grounding.

The other helmet-to-helmet hits came from Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Von Miller and cornerback Bradley Roby, who was fined $24,309 for his illegal hit on Rams receiver Duke Williams in an Aug. 27 exhibition game — a sizable forfeiture given that NFL veterans make $1,900 a week in the preseason.

Marshall said what he considers a dirty play is "stepping on somebody's ankle at the bottom of a pile, twisting somebody around, something like that. We just play hard. We hit hard. We play fast. ... It's the speed of the game. We're a malicious group, but we're not dirty."

Marshall said the word dirty should only be used when a team deliberately breaks the rules. He said he meant to hit Newton hard but not in the head, and Stewart said he thought he led with his shoulder on his big hit.

Broncos coach Gary Kubiak also dismissed the notion of his defense being dirty, saying, "We play hard. We're going to continue to play hard."

Kubiak called Newton the league's best player and said when he leaves the pocket, "you better tackle him like a (running) back."

Denver cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said nobody should have been surprised that the Broncos clobbered Newton they way they did.

"We're getting called dirty? Did they not watch the 2015 Broncos? They act like they've never seen us play," Harris said. "That's how we won the Super Bowl ."

The Broncos crossed the line aplenty last season, when they were the league's most heavily fined team, and "we'll be fined again," Harris said.

He wondered whether the Panthers guards would also face fines for their actions Thursday. Trai Turner drew a 15-yard taunting penalty for getting in the cornerback's face after Harris surrendered Kevin Benjamin's TD in the first half. And Andrew Norwell drew a 15-yard unnecessary roughness flag for jumping on Harris after his fourth-quarter interception.

"So, can you not say they were targeting me?" Harris asked. "I could have broken my ribs with a 300-pound guy jumping on top of me. They were targeting me."

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