Thomas, who was traded by the Broncos to the Houston Texans just before the league’s trade deadline last week, had been critical of the team’s handling of the trade in the days leading up to the deal. He also expressed his frustration about the potential to lose playing time to the team’s younger receivers as well as not being named team captain.
Asked after Wednesday’s practice about Thomas’ comments, Joseph said he, general manager John Elway and wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni have “great respect” for Thomas. He added, however, “I’m disappointed to read those things about how he recalls the conversations going.”
Joseph also said the Broncos and Thomas have to “move on.”
“He’s got to move on. We’ve got to move on,” Joseph said. “He’s no longer a Bronco and I can’t spend any time worrying about that. But as far as reading that stuff, I’m disappointed it was presented that way, I really am.”
Thomas appeared Monday on the team’s radio partner, 760 AM, with former Broncos players Rod Smith and Ray Crockett. In a roughly 20-minute interview, Thomas said it was “heart-breaking” he was not a team captain this season, that he was misled by the team about the possibility he would be traded and that he was the only wide receiver who was told his playing time would be reduced in favor of rookies Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton.
Thomas, who had been the longest-tenured Broncos player, was traded on Oct. 30, just hours before the league’s deadline. His first game with the Texans was this past Sunday, in Denver, and the Broncos honored Thomas with a short video presentation on the stadium’s scoreboards just before kickoff.
Quarterback Case Keenum and center Matt Paradis were voted the two team captains on offense just before the start of the regular season. Thomas, who caught three passes for 61 yards against the Broncos Sunday, had been elected a captain in three of his eight-plus seasons in Denver.
Joseph said Wednesday that Broncos players vote for the captains.
“They vote for the guys they see fit, who they want to lead their football team,” he said. “So I’m not sure where that came from or who discussed that with D.T. But again, I have great respect for him. The players vote for the captains. They voted for who they thought were the best guys to lead their football team. And that’s it.”
Thomas also said in the radio interview that Joseph had told him not to believe the rumors and that he would not be traded.
On his interactions with Thomas before the trade, Joseph said: “I think it’s a little frustration on his part, but I’m disappointed in how it came out, because I don’t recall it being discussed that way. And that’s OK.”
On the prospect of losing playing time to Sutton and Hamilton, Thomas had said in the interview: “I don’t understand that, because I’ve never cried about getting the ball. I didn’t get pissed about nothing. … I’m empty. I’m empty still.”
“We have great respect for D.T.,” Joseph said. “He was a great player here, and we honored him on Sunday. We didn’t win the game; he won the game.”