Report: Denver Broncos Hire Sean Payton ... Next Head Coach

The Broncos have found a new voice in Denver -- the team reportedly just finalized a deal to make Super Bowl champion Sean Payton their next head coach.

Denver is expected to send multiple first and second-round draft picks to the Saints in exchange for Payton, who last coached in the NFL with New Orleans in 2021.

According to Ian Rapoport, the deal was agreed upon ... paving the way for Payton to join the Broncos.

The Broncos recently fired head coach, Nathaniel Hackett ... after the team suffered a humiliating defeat, 51-14, to the Rams on Christmas.

Hackett went 4-11 in his first season at the helm with the Broncos ... and many believe he played a role in Russell Wilson's less than stellar season.

Wilson struggled offensively under Hackett -- the former Seahawk threw for just 16 touchdowns, and completed only 60.5 percent of his passes.

Payton -- who had interest from multiple teams -- had been rumored to return to the NFL one day ... and now, it appears he's the guy who will try to get the Broncos back on track.

Ex-NFL DL Derek Wolfe Kills Massive Mountain Lion ... After Hunt In Colorado

Ex-Broncos defensive lineman Derek Wolfe hunted a massive mountain lion in Colorado this week ... and at the end of the day, a wild photo shows the Wolfe got the better of the big cat.

The former NFL player detailed his insane journey to nab the mountain lion in Grant on his social media page Thursday ... saying it all started after he got a call on Tuesday that the animal was terrorizing a rural neighborhood in the city.

Wolfe said he was told the mountain lion had killed two of a woman's dogs ... and was "nervous what he might do next."

The 32-year-old avid hunter and fisherman said he then set out to kill it.

He explained on his IG that after discovering a ravaged mule deer that he assumed the big cat killed, he hiked up thousands of feet of rough terrain ... and eventually encountered the mountain lion.

"Exhausted, dehydrated, cramping," Wolfe said, "I drew back my [bow] and sent an [arrow] through him."

Wolfe said he then had to drag the beast's carcass back to his truck ... falling off a 10-foot rock face in the process.

Wolfe, who played in the NFL from 2012 through 2020, wrote in the comment section of his social media post that he estimated it weighed about 195 pounds. As for its height, Derek stands at 6-foot-5 ... and the cat seemed to be bigger than him.

Several ex-NFL players were astounded by Wolfe's catch ... with former Rams star Michael Brockers saying, "That’s Crazy bro."

O.T. Genasis I'm Down Bad Over Broncos ... 'S*** Is Awful Right Now'

MAJOR MISTAKE
TMZSports.com

Russell Wilson and the Broncos have put O.T. Genasis in a really crappy mood ... the rapper who loves the Denver franchise tells TMZ Sports he's down bad after the team's abysmal 5-12 season.

"This s*** is awful right now," the "CoCo" crooner admitted out at LAX this week.

Thankfully for the Broncos, though, O.T. is still keepin' the faith -- at least, somewhat -- telling us he's got hopes that after giving head coach Nathaniel Hackett the boot towards the end of the season, they can turn things around.

Then again, he ain't exactly optimistic about Wilson ... saying he's got big-time regrets about the five-year, $242 MILLION contract the Broncos gave the star QB after trading for him this past offseason.

"We gave him too much money," O.T. said ... before adding, "We should have test-drove the car before we bought it!"

O.T., though, knows a thing or two about sticking by Denver in bad times. The big Broncos fan -- who's often seen rockin' Denver attire -- lived through some disappointing losses before finally seeing them win the Super Bowl in 2016.

"Hopefully, it's just coaching," he said. "Hopefully, we come up with a better scheme, bro."

Denver's got about eight months to figure things out before the 2023 season officially begins ... and you can bet O.T. will be watching intently!

Peyton Hillis Received Emergency Treatment On Beach ... Pictures Show

UPDATE

10:22 AM PT -- 1/6 -- TMZ Sports has obtained pictures of the scene following Peyton Hillis' swimming accident ... showing lifeguards and medical professionals tending to the former running back on the beach while waiting for additional help to arrive.

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A helicopter and two ambulances rushed to the scene Wednesday ... with the chopper landing in the middle of the road before flying Hillis to the local hospital.

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Another adult was taken to the hospital via ambulance ... but the two kids did not require medical attention.

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Hillis remains in the hospital ... but Arkansas football released a statement on Friday, saying he's "doing better."

Peyton Hillis, the former Cleveland Browns star who was on the cover of the Madden 12 video game, was hospitalized after a swimming accident where he saved his kids from drowning.

Peyton remains in the intensive care unit for treatment on his lungs and kidneys, but doctors say his health is improving, according to his uncle.

Meanwhile, Peyton's kids are said to be safe and healthy.

Hillis was in Pensacola, FL when the accident happened, according to reporter Alyssa Orange, who says he was helicoptered to the hospital and remains unconscious in the ICU.

Peyton was on the Madden cover after a breakout season in 2010 and another good year in 2011 with the Browns. Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards to go with 477 receiving yards as a running back in 2010 and scored 13 total touchdowns. He followed with 717 total yards and 3 TDs in 2011 and then made it on the Madden 12 cover, being voted in by the fans.

A 7th-round draft pick out of Arkansas in 2008, Peyton played in 81 NFL games over 8 seasons with the Browns, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants.

Peyton has not played in the NFL since the 2014 season. He's since gotten into acting and made his film debut last year in the indie thriller, "The Hunting."

Originally Published -- 1/5 7:16 PM PT

Peyton Manning I Don't Want To Coach ... Even W/ Broncos Gig Open

TALKIN' FOOTBALL
Adam Glyn

Sorry, Broncos fans ... Peyton Manning says he doesn't have much interest in coaching Russell Wilson -- or anyone else, for that matter -- explaining this week he doesn't want to be in a headset on the sidelines, despite the open job in Denver.

Manning didn't mince too many words when asked this week about the possibility of potentially taking over for the fired Nathaniel Hackett in the Mile High City ... repeating "I don't think so" twice.

Of course, Manning doesn't have any coaching experience at the college or NFL level ... but that didn't stop his former team, the Indianapolis Colts, from hiring his former center, Jeff Saturday, earlier this year.

Peyton, though, didn't appear to have any real desire to follow in his pal's footsteps ... even if his old Denver squad could use him.

As we reported, the Broncos fired Hackett on Monday -- following a tumultuous 4-11 start to his Denver tenure. Many had hoped Manning, known as one of the most cerebral players in NFL history, could come in and save the day.

Clearly, however, they'll now have to look elsewhere.

DREAMS COME TRUE
ESPN/Omaha Productions

As for Manning's current gig -- one of the hosts of the ultra-popular "ManningCast" -- he said his dream guest after getting Barack Obama on the air is now Deion Sanders.

There's more ... the QB also spoke about 7-foot tight ends, his superstar H.S. nephew, Arch Manning, and his favorite Super Bowl sites!!

Denver Broncos Fire Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett ... After Blowout Loss To Rams

The Denver Broncos have fired head coach Nathaniel Hackett amid their disastrous 4-11 season ... just one day after the team suffered a massive 51-14 loss to the Rams on Christmas.

Broncos owner and CEO Greg Penner released a statement on Monday ... thanking the 43-year-old coach for his hard work and dedication to the organization, but saying it was time for a change.

"Following extensive conversations with George and our ownership group, we determined a new direction will ultimately be in the best interest of the Broncos," Penner said.

"This change was made now out of respect for everyone involved and allows us to immediately begin the search for a new head coach."

Hackett became the Broncos' head coach in January 2022 ... just a few months before the team traded for Seahawks QB Russell Wilson.

Both Hackett and Wilson struggled this season with the Broncos' offense ... only scoring 15.5 points per game.

The embarrassing 51-14 loss against the Rams on Christmas night was the last straw ... leaving the Broncos with a 4-11 record and at the bottom of the AFC West standings.

"Moving forward, we will carefully evaluate every aspect of our football operations and make whatever changes are necessary to restore this franchise's winning tradition," Penner added.

The Broncos say their interim coach will run the show for the last two games of the season against the Kansas City Chiefs and the L.A. Chargers.

Ex-Broncos Star T.J. Ward Sends Message To Denver ... Don't Fire Hackett

GIVE HIM ANOTHER YEAR
TMZSports.com

Nathaniel Hackett deserves at least one more season in Denver ... so says former Broncos star T.J. Ward, who tells TMZ Sports his old team shouldn't can the coach after his first year in the Mile High City.

Hackett is believed by many to be on the hot seat -- following the disastrous first 14 games of his Denver tenure. The team is just 4-10 ... and he's made some calls that fans believe have cost the Broncos several wins.

But, Ward told us this week Denver honchos just have to give the guy more time.

"One year shouldn't define you as a coach with one particular team," Ward said. "That's just my opinion."

Ward did acknowledge Hackett has made some missteps ... but he told us Denver's just got to live through the growing pains -- at least for 12 more months.

"It is his first time being a head coach," Ward said. "He's still learning."

As for Hackett's QB, Russell Wilson, Ward preached patience there, too.

He said he doesn't believe the former Seahawks star -- who was traded to Denver in the offseason for a boatload of draft picks -- is washed ... but he did say it's painfully obvious the signal-caller needs a better running game in order to succeed with his new team.

Ward also said he thinks the quarterback would benefit from a quieter offseason -- one where distractions and pressures won't be as great as this past one.

The Broncos have just three games left to go in the 2022 season ... after that, will they gear up for another year of Hackett and Wilson like Ward wants?

Stay Tuned ...

Ex-Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman Dead At 31 ... Peyton Manning Mourns

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2:58 PM PT -- Peyton Manning mourned the death of his former teammate Ronnie Hillman with a pair of pictures and an emotional message on his social media page Thursday.

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"Rest in peace Ronnie," the former Denver QB said. "We joined the Broncos the same year. Honored to be your teammate for four years in Denver. Great player, great person, great smile. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. 💔"

Ronnie Hillman, the former Denver Broncos running back who helped Peyton Manning win a Super Bowl, has died after a lengthy battle with cancer, his family announced Wednesday.

He was just 31 years old.

"It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved son, brother & father, Ronnie K Hillman Jr.," the family said in a statement. "Ronnie quietly and peacefully transitioned today in the company of his family and close friends."

The 2012 third-round pick had been diagnosed in August with Renal Medullary Carcinoma -- a rare form of cancer that affects young African Americans with sickle cell trait. He had fought it valiantly -- but was recently placed in hospice care.

His former Denver teammates -- Derek Wolfe and Orlando Franklin -- had asked Broncos fans to pray for him as his condition had worsened this week.

"We as the family, appreciate the prayers and kind words that have already been expressed," Hillman's family added in a statement Wednesday night. "We ask that you would give us time to process our feelings as we prepare to lay our precious RJ to rest."

Ronnie spent six seasons in the NFL -- playing for the Broncos, Vikings, Chargers and Cowboys. But, it was his time in Denver that most will remember him for.

He spent 2012 through 2015 in the Mile High City -- and had his greatest moment with the Broncos at the end of the '15 season ... when he was a member of the Super Bowl 50 team that defeated Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.

"A bright soul gone far too soon," the Broncos said in a statement Thursday. "We extend our heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the Hillman family during this difficult time."

R.I.P.

Originally Published -- 5:27 AM PT

Ex-Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman Fighting Rare Form Of Cancer ... In Hospice

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6:18 PM PT -- Ronnie Hillman's family just released a statement ... saying Ronnie was diagnosed with renal medullary carcinoma, a "rare but highly aggressive neoplasm form of cancer that primarily affects young African Americans with sickle cell trait" back in August.

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Hillman has undergone treatment, but it has not been successful. The family says he is being kept comfortable and out of pain in hospice care.

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"As a family, we hope beyond hope, and we have faith that can move mountains," the family said. "We also understand that God's will is not always ours; therefore, we as a family subject ourselves to the will of our Almighty God."

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"We need your prayers, but we also need your understanding and respect for Ronnie and our family's privacy at this time."

Former Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman, a third-round pick in 2012, is in hospice fighting for his life ... his former teammates said Tuesday.

Orlando Franklin -- who helped block for Hillman for three seasons in Denver -- initially revealed the sad news on his Twitter page ... asking Broncos fans for prayers for the ex-tailback.

"He's in hospice and not doing well," Franklin said.

Another one of Hillman's former teammates, Derek Wolfe, said later Tuesday the 31-year-old is currently battling "bad liver cancer."

"It's not looking good," Wolfe said on 104.3 The Fan on Tuesday. "He has pneumonia and I'm putting it out there just to send positive vibes his way."

Hillman played for the Broncos from 2012 through 2015 -- and helped Peyton Manning and the rest of the team win Super Bowl 50. Wolfe remembered him as a "great football player, great person, great teammate" and "an all-around great dude" on Tuesday.

Hillman, who starred at San Diego State before his NFL career began, also played for the Minnesota Vikings, San Diego Chargers and Dallas Cowboys in his career.

Originally Published -- 3:52 PM PT

'Orange Is The New Black' Actor Brad William Henke Dead at 56

Brad William Henke, a former NFL player who later got into acting and appeared in "Orange Is The New Black," has died ... TMZ has confirmed.

Brad died in his sleep Tuesday, according to sources connected to his family. The cause of death is unclear.

Brad's most famous for playing one of the prison guards in 'OITNB' -- and he's in the scene where one of the show's main characters, Poussey Washington, is killed off -- one of the biggest scenes in the entire series.

He also had roles in TV shows like "Justified" and "Lost" ... appearing in movies including "Pacific Rim" and "World Trade Center."

Brad started acting after retiring from the NFL in 1994, hanging up his cleats due to ankle injuries. He played his college ball at the University of Arizona before being drafted in 1989 by the New York Giants.

A defensive lineman, Brad also played for the Denver Broncos and got on the field in Super Bowl XXIV against the San Francisco 49ers.

Brad first got into Hollywood by acting in commercials, then he started landing TV guest spots on series like "ER," "Arli$$," "Nash Bridges," "Silk Stalkings" and "Chicago Hope."

With over 100 acting credits to his name, Brad also appeared in "CSI," "Judging Amy," "Crossing Jordan" and "Dexter" ... among many others.

7/2/16
THE LAST TIME WE SAW HIM
TMZ.com

His manager, Matt DelPiano, tells us, "Brad was an incredibly kind man of joyous energy. A very talented actor, he loved being a part of this community….and we loved him back. Our thoughts are with his wife and family.”

Brad was 56.

RIP

Ciara Sexy Dance For Russ' 34th Bday ... Mushy Love Letter, Too!!!

HUBBY LOVE
@ciara

Ciara went all out for Russell Wilson's 34th birthday ... hittin' a super sexy dance for her hubby -- AND penning him a sweet love letter, too!!!

Wearing a skintight, leather mini-dress, the "Level Up" singer took to TikTok to show love for her NFL player boo ... dancing around to a birthday song while blowing him a kiss.

She later hit Instagram to tell the Denver Broncos quarterback just how much she loved him on his big day Tuesday.

"Intelligent, Beautiful, Loving, Caring, Thoughtful, Consistent, Special, Anointed, Rare, A Legend, a Winner, Everything that is YOU!" she wrote in the caption of steamy photos of the couple. "I love you so much Birthday Boy @DangeRussWilson! Today a King was born! I love you so much! I’m so proud to celebrate you today and everyday 👑"

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Russ, like always, cherished both posts from his wife of 6 years ... responding in the comments, "Uh oh ... Momma TikTokin' again."

"I am grateful I get to spend the rest of my life with you," he added. "And one day Eternity in Heaven. I love you Mrs. Ciara Wilson."

As for how they celebrated ... they spent at least part of the day giving back to the community, with the two dropping by Centura Parker Adventist Hospital in Colorado to visit some patients.

Of course, there was a birthday cake involved, too.

Happy birthday, champ!

L.A. Chargers Ditch Sideline Mats At SoFi Stadium ... After Broncos Player's Lawsuit

Mats were nowhere to be seen on the sidelines during the Chargers vs. Chiefs game on Sunday night ... just days after a Broncos player sued L.A., claiming the previous use of the ground coverings at SoFi Stadium caused him to tear his ACL.

The mats had been there for the Broncos vs. Chargers game back on Oct. 17 -- and during a special teams play in the overtime period of the contest, outside linebacker Aaron Patrick stepped on them and blew out his knee.

THE SCARY INJURY
Courtesy of NFL

In a lawsuit filed on Nov. 15, he claimed it was a mistake by the Chargers, ESPN, the NFL and others to allow the mats to be placed so close to the playing field ... explaining all parties should have known they presented a dangerous hazard for players.

He sued for unspecified damages, including lost bonuses and future earning potential.

On Sunday -- the first Chargers game at SoFi Stadium since the suit was filed -- no mats were present in any area of the field.

It should be noted the game was an NBC broadcast, not an ESPN one ... but cords and cables were either covered in a different way, or carried by officials.

Unclear if the Chargers imposed the changes as a result of the suit ... they declined to comment due to the pending litigation.

Patrick's attorney, William M. Berman of Berman & Riedel, tells TMZ Sports he and his client still aren't happy with the changes ... saying, "The guys holding the cables/wires were still in too close proximity to the field, creating what we believe to still be a very dangerous condition."

"It's about player safety. It's for the betterment of the game."

NFL, L.A. Chargers Sued By Broncos Player ... Stadium Mats Caused ACL Tear

THE SCARY INJURY
Courtesy of NFL

A Denver Broncos special teamer is suing the NFL, the Chargers and a bunch of others ... claiming mats placed on the sidelines at SoFi Stadium earlier this year caused him to suffer a severe knee injury.

Aaron Patrick spelled out his allegations in a new lawsuit, obtained by TMZ Sports, saying that a series of poor decisions by the league and its L.A. team resulted in his ACL tear back on Oct. 17 during the Broncos vs. Chargers' "Monday Night Football" game.

The 25-year-old Denver outside linebacker said in his suit the injury happened in the overtime period of the contest in L.A. ... while he was attempting to make a tackle on a punt return.

Patrick says because of his effort to make the play on the field, his momentum carried him into the sideline area -- where an NFL official who monitors television timeouts was standing. Patrick claims in the suit in an attempt to avoid the man, he had to step on mats that stadium workers had put down to cover up NFL instant replay sideline monitor cords and cables.

Patrick says, as a result, his foot got caught in the mats and the cords -- causing his knee to bend awkwardly. He was later diagnosed with a torn ACL, and is expected to miss the rest of this season.

Patrick is heaping blame on not only the NFL and the Chargers for it all, but also ESPN, the mat company and others -- claiming they all could have done more to prevent the injury from happening.

Patrick claims all parties should have known the mats presented a dangerous hazard for players. He also says the NFL official shouldn't have been standing where he was.

Patrick is suing for unspecified damages, including lost bonuses and future earning potential.

"Player safety should be the foremost of importance to the NFL and its owners," said Patrick's attorney, William M. Berman of Berman & Riedel. "The NFL is a multi-billion-dollar sports enterprise and business, and it needs to do everything possible to protect its players from non-contact game injuries."

"As for Patrick's injuries," Berman continued, "SoFi Stadium was built at a $5,000,000,000 expense; the stadium should have the state-of-the-art equipment to protect for player safety, and not use the type of $100 mats that you would expect to see in a restaurant kitchen."

Russell Wilson, Ciara Enjoy Broncos Bye Week In Cabo ... Poolside Vibes!!!

Russell Wilson ditched the cold temps in Denver for a much warmer spot during the Broncos' bye week -- the QB hit up Cabo with his wife, Ciara, for some unliiiimited fun in the sun.

Russ and CiCi posted up poolside for at least part of their special getaway ... lounging in the rays while they got some R&R.

Ciara appeared to be enjoying the moment ... as the 33-year-old signal-caller was checking something out on a laptop.

Knowing the competitor Russ is, it wouldn't be surprising if he was checking out some Tennessee Titans game footage as the Broncos look to improve on their 3-5 record next week.

The vacay comes at the perfect time for Russ -- Denver hasn't gotten off to the hottest of starts, but the team was at least able to defeat the Jaguars in London last week ... allowing the couple to go into their Mexico trip on a high note.

Of course, Russ has been getting some hate from diehard fans for the slow start to the season -- they even left rude comments on his romantic Instagram post for Ciara's birthday.

But traveling isn't new to the Wilsons -- in July, Russ and the "Body Party" singer hit up Lake Como in Italy, where Ciara popped a pimple on her hubby's face. Truly romantic stuff.

Perhaps the time away will help the Broncos superstar get back on the right track??

Russell Wilson Pours Heart Out For Ciara ... Emotional Bday Post

Russell Wilson turned into William Wordsworth for Ciara's birthday -- gushing over his wife in an emotional post on Tuesday ... and praising her as the perfect mother, businesswoman and partner.

"God blessed the world on this day with you," the Denver Broncos quarterback said on Instagram. "I love you so much. You inspire the world!"

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"Every morning your mission is to make the world a better place and you have a perfect score."

Seriously ... dude poured his heart out for Ciara's 37th birthday, sharing some special moments of them together as well.

He continued ... "But most importantly, you are God's beautiful child and HE is wildly obsessed with you. Keep Shining my Love. Thank you everyday for loving me, encouraging me, and joining forces with me everyday to do what God called us to do! That’s to LOVE & SERVE."

"May this year bless you with all of your heart's desires! Happy Birthday my Queen."

While it was a really touching post, some trolls decided to take to the comments to rip the QB for his rough 2-5 start to the 2022 season ... telling him to focus on throwing touchdowns.

Ciara ignored the hate, though ... thanking her man for the kind words.

Subway Didn't Pull Russ' Sandwich Over Trolling ... We Swear!!!

No, Subway did not pull Russell Wilson's signature sub from its menu over hate from online trolls ... the sandwich giant tells TMZ Sports it simply needed some space for newer dishes.

The Russ hoagie -- dubbed the "The Dangerwich" -- debuted on Subway's exclusive "The Vault" menu back in February ... and it seemed to initially be a hit.

There didn't appear to be any problems with the sammy -- which featured pepperoni, salami, ham, cheese, bacon and veggies -- but when the org. began releasing some ads with the Broncos QB in them, that's when the backlash began.

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Russ looked super cringeworthy in the spots -- including one where he, decked out in sunglasses and a leather jacket, suggested a way to eat the meal with a fork and a knife.

The vids quickly became a meme on social media ... and after Wilson's awful start to the NFL season in Denver, the Internet hate grew exponentially.

This week, fans began to notice the sandwich had been removed from Subway's menu ... and many believed it was due to all of the trolling.

But, a spokesperson for Subway told us on Friday that was not the case -- and that the sandwich had actually been pulled in August, before the season began.

"Subway works with a variety of athlete partners, and The Vault is the perfect place to showcase their favorite sandwiches," the spokesperson said. "While The Dangerwich sub left The Vault in August to make room for some new, craveable options, don't worry, The Dangerwich will be back soon!"

Now, if only the Broncos could get that same guarantee from Russ' arm strength and accuracy on the field.

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