Lelie's toughness to be tested


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Jan 22, 2006
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Lelie's toughness to be tested
By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

Wide receiver Ashley Lelie has been beaten on and battered — and he hasn't even gone over the middle. Or, been anywhere near the Denver Broncos' first two mini camps.

While the Broncos have had voluntary and mandatory workouts, their resistant receiver from the University of Hawai'i has been away on a pique-powered boycott, with a marching cry that seems to be: Call me your No. 1 receiver, trade me, or don't bother calling me at all.

That recalcitrant perception hasn't played well in Denver so it is just as good that Lelie's latest agent, Peter Schaffer, said his client is working out in Carson, Calif.

If the biggest questions surrounding Lelie were about his toughness, even before the holdout, we're about to see the real answers now. If his tenacity and commitment have been in doubt, the truth can't be long in coming.

When the Broncos' camp opens July 28, will Lelie walk away from the curious advice he's been given and honor the end of a five-year, $7.1 million contract? Or will he reinforce the unfortunate image a Denver Post writer terms, "(of) being softer than a crying towel"?

Schaffer and Lelie weren't saying. But other are piling on. Broncos' coach Mike Shanahan all but flapped his arms and made poultry sounds while wondering out loud why Lelie, if he wants to be No. 1, won't compete with a 35-year old (Rod Smith) and a guy (Javon Walker) coming off knee surgery.

The Colorado media have used Lelie as an off-season pinata, rapping him as "Ashley 'AWOL' Lelie" and "One-TD Lelie." The latter a reference to the sole touchdown in 42 catches last season.

Even here, UH coach June Jones has sounded like a man who had been submarined after going to bat with the Denver ownership before the 2002 draft, where Lelie became a first-rounder.

Lelie is not without grounds for complaint, even if the approach to resolving them might be as misguided as a North Korean missile. He led the NFL in yards per reception (18.3) last year yet his catches and TDs have declined as it often seemed like he was taken out of the playbook. Or quarterback Jake Plummer was unable to find him. The hope is that the Broncos and Lelie will get back on the same page and with all that can mean.

So far, Lelie has walked away from a $100,000 bonus and could face a $11,641 fine for blowing off the mandatory three-day camp. When the 28th arrives, Lelie could take a $6,000-a-day loss by not reporting.

By then, the rigors of training camp and competition might not look so bad compared to the hits he's taking waiting for a trade that has yet to materialize.

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