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Broncos' Brandon Marshall discusses national anthem protests

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DENVER -- Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall might be protesting again this season and could have several teammates joining him. What would be different is that Marshall now knows how, for the first time, the Broncos felt about his decision to protest during the national anthem in 2016.

The sixth-year linebacker went all of last season, this offseason and the majority of training camp without ever really knowing where the organization stood on his decision to kneel during the national anthem in 2016. Marshall, who was a teammate of Colin Kaepernick's at Nevada, took a knee last season to raise awareness about social injustice and start the conversation about what we all can do to create positive change.

Marshall's protest ended in Week 9 of last season. He explained that "productive discussions and progress" with the Denver police department led to the re-examination of their use-of-force policy.

For the first time last week, executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway commented on how he felt about Marshall's protest and how the Broncos as an organization will view future protests, as well.

"Brandon made a point last year, but he carried it forward," Elway said after a joint practice with the 49ers in Santa Clara last Thursday. "He just didn't make a stand on the field before the games, he actually went out in the community and did something and talked to different people. He went and talked to law enforcement and got involved in the community. I was proud of Brandon in not only did he show his support for what it was last year, but also he went out and did something in the community."

Tuesday, I wanted to speak with Marshall on a variety of topics. His thoughts on Elway's comments, the Cleveland Browns' protest Monday night, his latest conversations with Kaepernick and his potential plans to protest this upcoming season.

Below is a transcript of our conversation from just off the Broncos' practice field Tuesday afternoon following the team's first workout of the season with Trevor Siemian officially the starting quarterback.

What was your feeling when you heard John Elway's comments while you guys were in San Francisco?

Brandon Marshall: Honestly, I was a little surprised. Honestly, because I didn't know how the organization viewed me after [my decision to protest last year]. I didn't know how they saw me. So, when that happened, it was a sigh of relief. I knew the coaches and [Gary] Kubiak had my back and I knew my teammates had my back, I just didn't know how the organization felt. So it felt good to hear that.

Did you have a conversation with Vance Joseph when he arrived here about what you did last year? Was that ever a discussion?

BM: No, we didn't talk about it. I didn't talk to anybody about it.

What is your take on Chris Long and what went on in Cleveland the other night? Now, with what Michael Bennett said, it seems there has been growth over the last couple of weeks. How have you observed all of that?

BM: I respect it. I respect it all. I'm glad everybody is standing up for what they believe in. I'm glad everybody is doing what they feel is right. It's a tough time right now in the country. These riots, the white nationalists, the white supremacy, whatever. But also with Colin Kaepernick still being unemployed. I respect [people coming together], and I'm happy that everybody is doing what they feel is right.

Would you prefer everybody who is protesting to be unified in how they are going about their stance or for each player to have his own voice?

BM: I prefer to be unified. I do prefer to be unified. Obviously, there's gonna be guys that want to do more than other guys. And other guys that have a louder voice than other guys. But as long as we're together and we have unity in what we're doing, I think it will make an even bigger impact.

Did you agree with Michael Bennett that if white players got more involved it would gain more traction?

BM: Absolutely. Absolutely -- and one did with the Browns, and I think that's amazing.

I talked to you about it last year, and I don't think people know the burden that you took on by yourself. How did you deal with that on a daily basis? Because you showed me some of the stuff that was written and mailed to you, and it was appalling. So how did you deal with that?

BM: It was tough. Because you're going to have a lot of people that are going to disagree. One thing that I don't like about us as a people is that, when we don't have the same view as somebody, a lot of times we bash that person. We say negative things about that person. We all can co-exist with different beliefs. That's the beauty of it. That's why we all have personalities and are individuals. But a lot of people don't see it that way. They feel they have to bash somebody because of what they believe in or what they want to do. But it's happened throughout time. It was tough for me doing it by myself. You know, I had a lot of support in the locker room. Guys said they would have loved to do it with me if they were in a better setup with the team. T.J. [Ward] did it with me for one game. So it was tough, but I stuck with it.

Is any player planning on doing anything with you this year or are you planning on going back to any form of protest this year?

BM: I'm thinking about it. I'm thinking about it. And I think some guys are thinking about it, as well. So we'll see what happens as the weeks come on. But I'm definitely thinking about it.

How do you clarify that it has never been a negative thing toward the military? You had Mark Geist (a member of the Annex Security Team that fought in the 2012 Benghazi attack) speak to you guys as a team yesterday. How do you show John Q. Public that this is no bash on the military?

BM: That's what everybody says. And, you know, the funny thing is a lot of my military friends or the people that I know that are military, they don't take offense to it. They say, 'I fought for your right to be able to protect your First Amendment right.' And so a lot of the guys that are in the military, they're saying one thing but the general population is saying another thing: 'Oh, you're so disrespectful.' But you were never in the military. You know what I'm saying? So you don't really know how they feel because a lot of them support it.

Do you think that you've made other efforts but feel that it has to be on this level to make something happen?

BM: Absolutely. I've said before: This is the loudest we could have been. You know, a lot of times you do stuff in the community and it's good, and it might get some local attention. But it never gets out. The negative, however, always gets out. The negative -- anything you do, you mess up, DUI -- that stuff is national. When you go see a kid or help a kid out with cancer, it's really not national. This right here, some perceive it as negative, but it's something that's never really been done until last year. So it's like such a big shock and it's going to get a lot of coverage. That's really the best way to do it, in my opinion. We could go sit down with as many mayors or head of police departments that we want, but this will get the national attention that you really hope for.

Follow James Palmer on Twitter @JamesPalmerTV.

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