Seeking answers


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Jan 22, 2006
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Seeking answers
Broncos' Plummer getting frustrated by slow pace in investigation of death of ex-teammate Tillman
By Jeff Legwold, Rocky Mountain News
April 5, 2006

ENGLEWOOD - Jake Plummer can't believe how late it's getting.
He can't believe how much he still wants to get done, how much he wants to make a difference.

Oh, there's that whole issue of the Super Bowl - and, boy, has he been focusing on that - but Plummer just cannot get Pat Tillman out of his head.

The Denver Broncos quarterback said in an interview Tuesday he has spent much of the off-season thinking about Tillman, a former teammate at Arizona State who was killed April 22, 2004, while serving in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army Rangers.

Plummer did much for Tillman's memory during the 2004 season.

He got the attention of the nation when, in honor of Tillman, he defied the NFL and its threat of a $30,000 fine and wore a "40" decal longer than the one game specified by the league.

The quarterback, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and the league finally arrived at a compromise that included Plummer filming a public-service announcement for Tillman's foundation that was played on scoreboards in NFL cities and the No. 40 being displayed at Invesco Field at Mile High.

But that wasn't enough.

After repeatedly speaking with Tillman's family in the months since, Plummer said he has grown increasingly frustrated about the family's search for answers surrounding Tillman's death.

The Pentagon announced earlier this year it was launching a criminal investigation into a shooting the Army had said, after two previous investigations, was an accidental, friendly fire shooting.

Plummer plans to contact NFL players - he said he already has spoken with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe - in each of the league's cities in hopes they will get in touch with members of Congress in those states to try to push for answers.

"It's just for his family after all they've been through," Plummer said. "They want to know; it's been two years. Seeing Pat's brother, talking to his parents, I've just been thinking a lot about that."

He also has been thinking a lot about the latter stages of his NFL career.

"I was thinking that the other morning, getting ready to come over here - 10 years, man," Plummer said. "I think I said it after nine years, too, but nine is one thing, 10 is another. Ten years I've been in the league, that's double digits. I know what comes with that - it means I have experience, but it also means you don't know how many opportunities you're going to get like we had last year.

"I know what that means for me. At this point, I know this offense, so it's about 'getting it' so I can help the guys upstairs sleep a little easier at night and it's about trying to accomplish some things."

The Broncos opened their off-season conditioning program this week, and for most players, Plummer included, it marks the first official step toward trying to repeat last season's 13-3 record that included an AFC West title.

It also marks the first official step for those players, Plummer included, to try to do more with the good fortune of a home AFC Championship Game than they did in January's 34-17 loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"Definitely because you don't know how long you're going to go, and at this point in your career, your body starts doing things you're not used to," Plummer said. "I feel good, but I just don't feel like I did six years ago. But you get smarter, you learn how to get around that.

"But last year hurts. It was an opportunity, and, hopefully, if we get another opportunity, we take advantage of it."

Plummer spent most of the 2005 season explaining his improved play - his seven interceptions tied a career low and were easily the least he has thrown in any season he started more than 11 games - only to see all of the good tidings that came his way get washed away in the loss against the Steelers.

He finished the AFC title game 18 of 30 passing for 223 yards and two interceptions. In three of the four games the Broncos lost last season, Plummer threw two interceptions.

So he knows. He knows he has gone 32-11 as the Broncos' starter during the regular season, averaging 224 passing yards a game in those 43 starts.

He also knows 2005 was laid out for a shot at the whole deal. That the Broncos had a home game for a chance to reach the Super Bowl, yet still watched someone else play for the championship.

"You get back to work," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "That's what Jake can do, that's what any of us can do. . . . The great ones, the great quarterbacks, are studying defenses the whole year, they critique themselves. Those are some of the things he did last year.

"You're always learning. That's why I think a guy like Peyton Manning is as productive as he's been. You never quit studying the game."

Plummer already has met with assistant head coach Mike Heimerdinger, who will game plan the team's passing game and call plays on game days now that longtime offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak is the coach of the Houston Texans.

And after looking at last season, and the off-season releases of running back Mike Anderson and tight end Jeb Putzier, Plummer said he believes the goal this season will be to find some pop in the offense.

"I think we lacked some big plays," said Plummer, who sports only stubble, not the full beard he ended the season with. "The year before, we had a bunch. Obviously, we have to get the touchdown production up. If we're doing that with our defense, that will lead to hopefully more wins.

"We need some production. (Receiver) Rod (Smith) had an amazing year last year, to ask him to do that again - he's going to have another amazing year because that's what he does - but we do need somebody to definitely step up.

"But this team definitely brings it out of you. When you're around the guys in this locker room, you aspire to be great. I just don't see why we won't have as a good a year as we did last year and hopefully just a little better.",2777,DRMN_23918_4596937,00.html
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