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Elway Says Wife Is Recovering

August 12, 1998

GREELEY, Colo. (AP) _ Returning to training camp after a tumultuous week that saw him spend time in Minnesota and South Dakota, John Elway had good news to report, along with a minor complaint.

Speaking to the media for the first time in 11 days, Elway said his wife, Janet, who underwent colon surgery last Thursday at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., ``is doing good. She’s doing a lot better.″

But Elway’s other trip _ a mission to try to persuade offensive tackle Gary Zimmerman to come out of retirement _ was less successful. And he said a newspaper story might have influenced Zimmerman to stay retired.

Meanwhile, Elway has restructured his contract again to help the Broncos free up money under the salary cap, The Denver Post said Tuesday.

The restructuring will lower the quarterback’s base salary from $4.05 million to $300,000 and will free up $3.75 million to help the Broncos sign their seven draft picks and still have about $2.5 million left to pay off incentives in players’ contracts and sign free agents.

It was the second time this year Elway has restructured his contract.

``Once again, John has helped us out,″ Broncos coach Mike Shanahan told The Post. ``Over the years, John has given us the ability to utilize the cap to its fullest potential. He has always put the team first and himself second.″

Elway has restructured his contract many times but this was the first time he had done it twice in the same year. The restructuring will extend Elway’s contract from the 2001 season to the 2003 season.

Elway left training camp last week to be with his wife at the hospital, and returned with her to their Denver-area home Sunday. He missed the Broncos’ opening preseason game in St. Louis Saturday night.

``It was good that I was there for her,″ he said. ``It felt good to help her go through it because it was a rough time.″

With a laugh, he added, ``I had a chance to watch the Tampa Bay Storm play the San Jose Tiger Sharks in Arena Football. That was the first time I got to watch a full game.″

Asked if her illness put things in perspective, he said, ``Yeah. You try to keep it in perspective all the time, but when something serious like that happens, it brings you back to earth a little bit and makes you start thinking about what’s really important.

``Any time you have a loved one who’s gone through a serious operation like that, it always weighs big. I’m just glad that she came through it with flying colors and she’s going to be on the way to good health, being able to enjoy life a little bit more than she has the last couple of years.″

Elway emphasized that his wife ``doesn’t have Crohn’s Disease, which I heard was mentioned. It was a colon problem, but it had nothing to do with Crohn’s or anything like that.″

When asked if he had second-guessed his decision to play another season in light of his wife’s medical problems, Elway said, ``The bottom line is that Janet gets healthy, and really that was my priority. If she had been there for three weeks, I would have been there for three weeks, making sure she got right because she is the love of my life. She came through with flying colors, so I was able to get back here and continue doing my job.″

As for Zimmerman, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said on Monday that Zimmerman, a seven-time Pro Bowler who announced his retirement from the Broncos in the off-season, might have come out of retirement had a story not leaked last week that he was coming back.

Elway agreed.

A week ago, Elway went to Sturgis, S.D., where Zimmerman was attending a motorcycle rally, to lobby for Zimmerman’s return.

``I really think that he would have come back,″ Elway said. ``But the premature (newspaper) report that he was coming back was the kind of thing that sent him the other way.

``You have to know Gary. That was an intrusion into his privacy. When someone like Gary feels somebody else made a decision for him without giving him the chance to say it himself, a lot of times people will fall the other way. If Gary really wanted to come back, that probably wouldn’t have mattered. But I think because he was on the fence, that sent him the other way.

``I had a feeling that we definitely had a chance (to talk him out of retirement). But when I got back and saw everything that was in the paper and watched ESPN and CNN report that he was coming back _ and knowing Gary _ I said, `Chances are very, very slim.′

``It’s too bad. But I think that Gary will be very happy in retirement. I really respect his opinion. He did what was best for Gary.″

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