Sports Outside the Beltway

Shanahan Tired of Lelie’s Holdout

Ashley Lelie’s contract holdout is winning him no fans on the Broncos coaching staff.

Ashley Lelie’s absence is starting to chafe Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. As promised, Lelie was a no-show Tuesday when the Broncos gathered for onfield work for the first time since losing the AFC title game to Pittsburgh in January. “I can’t worry about the guys that aren’t here — or the guy that’s not here,” Shanahan said after his nine-day quarterbacks camp opened without the recalcitrant former first-round draft pick. “The only thing I’m concerned about are the people that are here. “I know it’s hard to be the No. 1 wide receiver when you’re not competing.”

One player Shanahan was surprised to see in attendance was tackle/tight end Dwayne Carswell, who was critically injured in a car crash last October. “Dwayne is a lot farther ahead than I thought he would be,” Shanahan said. “He’s out there ready to practice already. I did not think that would be possible after watching him over the last couple of months. He is an overachiever, he works extremely hard. He has a big passion for the game.”

Lelie insists he does, too. He wants to be a featured pass-catcher in somebody’s offense and is convinced he’ll never get that opportunity in Denver, where Rod Smith is entrenched and former Pro Bowl receiver Javon Walker, acquired in a draft-day trade with Green Bay, is expected to start on the other side. Lelie wasn’t pleased with the Broncos’ interest in Terrell Owens and declined to attend the club’s offseason conditioning program, forgoing a $100,000 contract incentive to work out instead in Tempe, Ariz. — with Walker, oddly enough.

When you’ve got a man coming back early from a serious car crash to practice, it makes crybaby contract holdouts seem even more petty. The bottom line is Lelie is under contract with the Broncos. That they’re looking elsewhere for a number one wideout is more an indication of his ability–or work ethic–than anything else. He should cowboy up and play better if he thinks he’s the #1 guy.

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