Broncos News & Notes 3/29

A nervous look at start of the 2002-03 season, Network executives schedule four Broncos prime time games and the Shannon Sharpe watch continues....

SQUARING OFF AGAINST THE RAMS

The National Football League released its 2002 schedule today, and for the Denver Broncos one fact became painfully obvious, right out of the gate they're in for a tough haul.

Four preseason tune-ups make way for a season opener against the defending NFC Champion St. Louis Rams at Invesco Field. Following a stop in San Francisco the Broncos return home to face Buffalo on Sept. 22 and then debut on Monday Night Football against the former Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 30.

All in all, the Broncos face three former Super Bowl champions, including last year's NFC champion, all within the first eight games.

Not exactly an easy slide into the 2002 season.

PRIME TIME BRONCOS

Fascination with the Broncos certainly hasn't faded over the past two seasons, as networks continue to schedule Denver for key prime time events.

This year's package calls for twelve nationally televised games, including preseason and regular season doubleheader telecasts. Four prime time telecasts include games against Miami, Baltimore, Indianapolis and Oakland.

The 2002 season also marks the first time in five years that Denver will not open up its regular season on Monday Night Football. Their last regular season home opener on a Sunday came on Aug. 31, 1997 when Denver beat Kansas City 19-3.

A complete list of all network games can be found on our Denver Broncos 2002 schedule.

SHARPE STILL PONDERS DECISION

Exactly where Shannon Sharpe will play next season is anybody's guess, but you can bet the house on the fact it will be in the AFC West.

Sharpe left Oakland on Wednesday afternoon after visiting with Raider officials, and will weigh his options against that of Mike Holmgren and the Seattle Seahawks, whom he visited earlier in the week. No trip to Denver has been scheduled, but it has been widely known that the one-time Pro Bowl Bronco would like to finish his career in Denver.

With the Broncos locked in a very cash-poor situation, the Raiders and Seahawks stand to be able to offer the more lucrative deals, yet Denver still holds on as the sentimental favorite.

"I don't see it coming down to money," Sharpe told reporters. "It's about giving me an opportunity to contribute. All I know is that, at age 33, I led NFL tight ends in catches last year. You can't argue the numbers."

A decision is expected within a week as to whether or not, at least in Shannon Sharpe's case, it's all about the money.

ORIGINAL STEELER PASSES AWAY

Ray Kemp, one of the earliest African-American players in the NFL, died at the age of 94. Kemp was the last surviving member of the Pittsburgh Steelers (then "Pirates") original team in 1933. A graduate of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Kemp had played on several Art Rooney-owned semi-pro teams prior to 1933. "My father always said that Ray was a very tough player," says Steelers owner Dan Rooney. "We were pleased to have him as part of our Steelers family, and I know that Ray was very proud to have been on that original team."

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