ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Nasty, hard-hitting, wicked. Sure. But dirty? No way, say the 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."
About those helmet-to-helmet hits on Cam Newton, 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 big quarterback in the Broncos' 21-20 win on Thursday.
The brutality of the game sparked debates over league safety, sideline concussion protocol and the ability of the MVP to survive, much less thrive, as a read-option quarterback. And, yes, whether Denver's devastating defense crossed the line from dominant to dirty.
Though no hits resulted in penalty yardage, and Newton never got checked for a concussion during the game, Marshall said he expected a hefty fine today. So did safety Darian Stewart, whose helmet-to-helmet hit left Newton motionless.
The other head hits came from Super Bowl MVP Von Miller and cornerback Bradley Roby.
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."
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."
Also, Denver's police chief says he has talked to Marshall about the player's decision to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial oppression and police brutality. Robert White says he met Tuesday with Marshall after being approached by Broncos management. The chief says he will offer Marshall the chance to ride along with police and watch "shoot, don't shoot" training. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, one of Marshall's college teammates at Nevada, started the trend of protesting the anthem in the preseason. Marshall did so before Thursday's game.
Goff watch: Without quarterback Jared Goff, the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, the Rams were shut down and shut out in Monday's 28-0 loss at San Francisco. Case Keenum was 17 for 35 for 130 yards and two interceptions (and of course no touchdowns) as the Rams were held to 185 total yards. Goff was made inactive for the game and is No. 3 on the depth chart, behind Keenum and Sean Mannion. Whether that will change Sunday, when the Rams host Seattle in their first game in Los Angeles since 1994, is an open question. "(Goff wants) to play, and I want him to play," coach Jeff Fisher told the Los Angeles Times last week. "We're not there yet."
Cowboys: Suspended defensive end Randy Gregory is back with the team but owner/general manager Jerry Jones gave no indication when or if the second-year player will play. Jones said Gregory, serving a four-game suspension for violating substance-abuse policy, returned after spending time in a rehab facility.
Dolphins: They signed former Chargers linebacker Donald Butler after a tryout, the Miami Herald reported. Former Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk also tried out but wasn't signed.
Jaguars: Running back Chris Ivory was released from the hospital but his availability for next week's game at San Diego was in question. He was hospitalized Sunday with a "general medical issue" and missed the opener against Green Bay.
Packers: Left tackle David Bakhtiari signed a contract extension, worth up to $51.67 million over four years, the Associated Press reported.
Saints: They released running back C.J. Spiller just one year and one game into a four-year, $16 million deal. Spiller was a healthy scratch Sunday.