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Broncos Waiting for Word on Elway

March 30, 1999

DENVER (AP) _ John Elway will retire from football financially secure and professionally revered.

It’s just a matter of when.

``I don’t think John is any more comfortable with retirement than most players,″ said Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, still awaiting word on Elway’s future. ``It’s a difficult decision.″

As he demonstrated during his MVP performance in Denver’s second straight Super Bowl victory, Elway still has life left in his 38-year-old body.

The Broncos are hoping he returns for a 17th season, but are not setting a deadline as they prepare to start offseason conditioning April 7.

``I don’t think we’re putting any pressure on him to make up his mind at any particular point in time,″ Bowlen said. ``Whenever that is, that’s fine with us. I don’t know where he’s headed.″

Elway’s agent, Marvin Demoff, said he doesn’t expect Elway to keep the Broncos waiting much longer.

``The only thing I know is that he’d like to make a decision early enough so that his training would be appropriate,″ Demoff said Monday. ``If I had to guess, we’re looking between the 15th of April and the 15th of May, but that is pure speculation.″

When Elway announced his decision to return last June, he said he was 99.9 percent certain 1998 would be his last year. Pressed, Elway amended it to 100 percent.

But now that he’s won another Super Bowl, the question has surfaced again. Jay Leno unsuccessfully tried to get Elway to tip his hand last month, and radio talk show hosts and newspaper columnists offer arguments for and against retirement.

The debate always returns to one thing _ the lure of becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to win three straight Super Bowls.

``If we were to win three in a row and he were the quarterback, it definitely establishes a new level,″ Bowlen said. ``If you’re the only quarterback in history to win three Super Bowls in a row, I think that sets you apart from the rest of the pack.″

Last year, Elway received input from a variety of sources, including his father, Jack, Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench and former Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly.

No one’s advice, however, meant more to Elway than that of his wife Janet and their four children _ Jessica, 14; Jordan, 11; Jack, 9; and Juliana, 8. All encouraged him to keep playing, and family advice figures to be key again.

``I would think that’s the biggest part of his decision,″ said Elway’s personal aide, Kathy Hatch. ``They’re a very close family, so I know that’s going to weigh very heavily on his decision.″

Elway made family a priority last summer, skipping Denver’s first exhibition game to be with Janet when she underwent colon surgery. She later was hospitalized by complications.

All of which put Colorado’s best-known couple and their multimillion-dollar lifestyle in a different light.

``He’s a car-pool dad,″ Hatch said. ``When Janet wasn’t feeling well he even did grocery shopping. They’re a very regular family, just as normal a family as you could find in this situation.″

Elway has his own health to consider. After missing only 10 games in his first 15 years, Elway sat out four games and was sidelined for parts of two others in 1998.

Age has its ways of sending messages. Elway was sidelined by two non-contact injuries _ a strained hamstring and back spasms _ and he had rib trouble after falling on the football.

``That could have happened in the best part of his career, so John’s certainly capable of playing,″ Bowlen said. ``It’s really just a decision of whether or not he feels he can stand up to all the stuff he has to go through.″

So while the auto dealerships that bear his name offer a three-day, 150-mile guarantee on all new cars, opposing linebackers offer no such security to vulnerable quarterbacks.

``As a fan, you dread the day he’s going to quit, but he’s in one piece right now,″ Hatch said. ``I’d like to see him stay that way.″

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