Broncos trade up for Shane Ray at No. 23, days after citation

ByJeff Legwold ESPN logo
Friday, May 1, 2015

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the end, the Denver Broncos believed the reward of trading up in the first round of the NFL draft to get Missouri defensive end/outside linebacker Shane Rayat No. 23 was well worth the risk.

Ray, who was the No. 10 player on the Broncos' draft board, was cited in the early morning hours Monday for marijuana possession in a traffic stop by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Marijuana is legal for at-home use by adults in Colorado but still is a banned substance in the NFL.

Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway said he, and other Broncos officials, spoke with Ray this week to discuss the citation and came away ready to make a deal to get the player if they had the chance.

"It was a situation where I let somebody really close to me influence me and it cost me,'' Ray said. "At the end of the day, it was a bad decision to put myself in that position and I understand that. I accept that. ... I'm not going to let it define me as a person, and I'm not going to let it define my character. This is a great opportunity for me. ... I don't have off-the-field issues because I'm not a person that has off-the-field issues.''

Added Elway: "We had several people talk to him. ... He was very remorseful, realized he made a mistake, said it was never going to happen again. We feel like we've got a great support system here for him. ... Where Shane fell on our board, we felt it was something we couldn't pass up.''

The Broncos felt good enough about those discussions to flip-flop first-round picks with Detroit-- the Lions got the Broncos' pick at 28, with which they chose Duke offensive guard Laken Tomlinson -- and Denver sent a fifth-round pick in this draft (143rd overall), a fifth-round pick in the 2016 draft and center/guardManny Ramirezto the Lions, as well.

Elway said Ray will begin his career in the initial phase of the NFL's substance-abuse program -- the behavioral portion of the program -- which would make Ray subject to increased testing. But Elway said of the program, "Other than that we're not aware of, it goes through the league.''

"This one it's unfortunate it happened just a few days before the draft,'' Ray said. "I can't wait to come in and do everything I can to help this program.''

On the field, Ray was the SEC's defensive player of the year with 14.5 sacks.

He did not work out at the NFL scouting combine in February because of a toe injury and was limited at his pro day as well.

Thursday night, however, Ray said he would "definitely'' be ready for training camp later this summer.

"I think he's a 21-year-old kid who made a mistake. ... The kid, to me, loves the game of football, and I think he realizes the mistake that he made could really affect what that does to his football career,'' Elway said. "I think that's why he made the commitment to us that it's not going to happen again.''

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