ENGLEWOOD, Colo.—As Denver Broncos training camp prepares to enter its first full week, there are serious questions swirling around defensive end Antonio Smith. The 33-year-old former Pro Bowler, who the Broncos picked up in free agency this offseason, is currently under investigation for child abuse of a sexual nature.
According to TMZ, the allegations stem from a relative in Fort Bend County Texas who claims incidents of abuse have been occurring since as early as 2010. Back in May, the Fort Bend district attorney told the celebrity news website’s sports department, “We're trying to discern the truth from the untruthfulness of the claim to decide what charges, if any, will be filed.”
The Broncos, who’d signed Smith without being informed of the investigation, prohibited him from taking part in much of the team’s offseason conditioning program, hoping a resolution to the case would come soon. Yet, Smith reported to camp on opening day, along with the rest of his team, as if nothing had happened.
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When asked about Smith’s arrival on the first day of training camp, head coach Gary Kubiak only commented on Smith’s physical readiness for camp, sidestepping any mention of the investigation.
“I’m just concerned about the total conditioning part,” Kubiak said, “We’ll be smart.”
Antonio Smith himself was just as unwilling to offer any substantive comment on the matter when peppered with questions, following his first workout with the team in well over two months.
“I really can't speak much on it, but I have faith in the process,” Smith said, “I have faith that in the end, it's going to be alright. I haven't heard a word. I don't have a timetable. I don't know how I should feel about a timetable. I’ve never been in a situation before, so I just have to trust the system.”
While it’s true Smith’s legal background is fairly clean, the illicit nature of the accusations against him in this case have made the Broncos weary of showing too much commitment to the former fifth round draft pick.
However, the recent announcement of a four-game suspension for defensive end Derek Wolfe, and a calf strain suffered by defensive end Malik Jackson have forced the Broncos to hold off on taking any additional action regarding Smith. According to a source inside the organization, the Broncos intend to continue preparing Smith for the season, until circumstances around the investigation make that impossible.
What exactly that means, and whether Smith will be a Bronco during the team’s Week 1 matchup with the Baltimore Ravens isn’t known yet. That’s not the only question surrounding Smith’s return to the team that’s yet to be answered.
When asked what changed to allow Smith to return to the team after being exiled during the OTA process, both Smith and Kubiak had the same answer. “Nothing, really,” Smith said. When asked by the Denver Post’s Troy Renck to evaluate further, Kubiak could only say, “We've been in communication with Antonio and the league for the last couple of months. Based on those discussions, it's appropriate for Antonio to be here and compete with the rest of the team as we begin training camp."
Smith has yet to be charged with a crime in connection with the ongoing investigation. However, that doesn’t mean he’s out of the woods. “The complaint is still under investigation,” Fort Bend County District Attorney John Healey told Renck, “No determination has been made to formally charge Mr. Smith at this time."
While the District Attorney’s office continues its investigation, fans are left to wonder whether Smith is really worth the trouble. During the 2014 season, which he spent with the Oakland Raiders, Smith recorded just twenty total tackles. He’s recorded more than thirty only once in the last five seasons.
Smith says he’s “confident” that he’ll be with the Broncos week one. In the meantime, he’s content to continue working as if nothing had changed. His biggest concern seems to be the elevation in the Mile High City, “The altitude, it isn't my friend, I'll have to say that,” Smith said, “The last time I came, it took me two, three weeks to adjust. So, I'm hoping I'm going to adjust a bit quicker this time.”
Whether or not that remains his biggest concern a few weeks from now remains in serious question
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