Disgruntled Broncos receiver Lelie skips minicamp
Still hoping to force a trade before the start of training camp, disgruntled wide receiver Ashley Lelie skipped the Denver Broncos' mandatory minicamp session on Thursday and is expected to boycott the entire three-day event.
Denver is the last team in the NFL to convene a mandatory minicamp before training camp starts.
The absence of Lelie, who is unhappy over his role with the Broncos, the offseason acquisition of wide receiver Javon Walker, and apparently his contract, was expected. The four-year veteran, the subject of trade rumors through much of the offseason, had previously boycotted all 14 of the Broncos' voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) workouts and had publicly reiterated his desire to move on.
Lelie, 26, was a first-round choice in the 2002 draft, the 19th player chosen overall that year, and the former University of Hawaii standout was a full-time starter the past two seasons.
For his career, Lelie has appeared in 64 games and started 40 contests, and has recorded 168 receptions for 3,007 yards and 12 touchdowns. He led the league in average yards per reception each of the last two years, at 20.1 yards in 2004 and 18.3 yards in 2005, among players with more than 40 catches.
But after enjoying a career season in 2004, with 54 catches for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns, Lelie's numbers fell off last year, when he posted 42 receptions for 770 yards and only one touchdown.
A longstrider and deep threat, Lelie has 53 catches for 20 yards or more and 18 receptions of 40-plus yards in his career, but is prone to lapses in concentration and to bouts of inconsistency. Although the Broncos have attempted to deal him during the offseason, they have found no one willing to meet their asking price.
The Broncos already have 11-year veteran Rod Smith on hand and Walker, who is rehabilitating from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, is expected to be completely recovered for the beginning of camp, and projected as the other starter. That leaves Lelie as the No. 3 wideout at best and the Broncos have a number of younger players they feel can fill that role.
Lelie is entering the final year of his original rookie contract and is due a base salary of $600,000. Because he is under contract, he can be fined for missing the mandatory minicamp. If Lelie follows through on his threat to sit out training camp, which begins July 28, he will also be subject to daily fines for those absences. There is a possibility the Broncos could attempt to recover a prorated share of the $3.3 million signing bonus that Lelie received in 2002.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.
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