INDIANAPOLIS — Since the news broke that the Denver Broncos were trading for quarterback Joe Flacco, his name has become quite polarizing in the Mile High City. Some like the move, some love the move, some hate the move and some despise the move. But if there’s one thing that all can agree on when it comes to the former Super Bowl MVP, it’s that he needs a deep threat in his arsenal of weapons to be at his best.

When healthy, Emmanuel Sanders could certainly be that guy, as he is not only a deep threat but also a No. 1-quality wide receiver. With that said, as a 31-year-old coming off of a torn Achilles tendon, that health is a large question mark.

That question mark, combined with the struggles of the wide receiving corps after Sanders went down last season, has the Broncos looking to the free agent market to see if they can get Flacco some veteran help this offseason. Of course, when you look at the list of free agents available for 2019, the first name that pops out is John Brown, a speedy, 5-foot-11 receiver that spent last season in Baltimore with the 34-year-old quarterback.

In Flacco’s nine starts with the Ravens in 2018, Brown hauled in 34 catches for 601 yards and four touchdowns. On a 16-game scale, that comes out to 60 catches for 1,068 yards and seven touchdowns.

That all sounds great, but many have been quick to point out a potential roadblock between Brown and the Broncos—the 28-year-old receiver possesses the sickle cell trait, the same blood disorder that was blamed for former Steelers safety Ryan Clark’s horrifying experience in Denver in 2007.

On the plane following a game against the Broncos, Clark complained of a severe pain underneath his ribs. He was pulled from the plane by team doctors, and eventually the pain got so bad, he called his wife to say his goodbyes, thinking it could be the end for him.

After a month of agony, it was discovered that Clark had a splenic infarction. Doctors believed that the high altitude had complicated his sickle cell trait, preventing oxygen from getting to his organs. Eventually, it cost him his spleen, his gallbladder, 40 pounds and his season.

With that in mind, it’s no wonder that many are saying Denver is not an option for Brown, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

On Monday morning, a source close to the free agent told BSN Denver that that sickle cell trait will have “no impact at all” on his destination this offseason, later adding that the Broncos will “certainly” be in the mix.

With that information in mind, on Tuesday afternoon, we spoke with Dr. Rachelle Nuss, Director of the Hemoglobinopathy Program at Children’s Hospital Colorado and a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado, to get a doctor’s opinion on the matter.

When we asked Dr. Nuss directly if possessing the sickle cell trait would prevent John Brown from playing in Denver on a long-term basis, she answered without hesitation.

“No. Absolutely not,” Nuss said.

“We have definitely had players with sickle cell trait on the Broncos before,” she continued. “There is not a contraindication to a player with sickle cell trait coming to Denver.”

As for Clark, Nuss explained that his awful experience is certainly more of an exception than a rule.

“Ryan Clark had sickle cell trait, and we know that one ramification of sickle cell trait and altitude exposure can be a splenic infarct (a condition in which oxygen supply to the spleen is interrupted, leading to partial or complete tissue death due to oxygen shortage in the organ),” she explained. “It’s even debatable whether that’s attributable just to sickle cell trait and altitude exposure or if the rare individual who experiences that also has some other underlying risk factor for the splenic infarct because by far, by far by far, it’s a rare event in people with sickle cell trait.”

There you have it.

This is good news for the Broncos who will take a long look at Brown, and even better news for Brown, who won’t have his market diminished by something completely out of control. Keep John Brown firmly on your radar in terms of potential acquisitions for Denver this offseason.

Ryan Koenigsberg
Author

Ryan D. Koenigsberg, was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, and is the Vice President of Content Strategy and co-founder of BSN Denver. Ryan also covers and travels with the Denver Broncos. Education: Graduated from the University of Colorado in 2015 with a degree in both Broadcast Journalism and Communication. Career: I got my start in Journalism in 2011 with an internship covering University of Colorado athletics for a website called BuffScoop.com, a branch of the 247Sports Network. Less than one year after accepting that position, I was promoted to the lead writer of the site. After another year at BuffScoop, I was hired to a staff position covering the Buffaloes for Buffstampede.com, the CU site for the Rivals.com network. Two years later, shortly before officially graduating from CU, I was approached by a dude named Brandon Spano who was planning to revolutionize the way sports were covered in our great state. I accepted a position on the ground floor of BSN Denver that, at the time, centered—once again—around covering the Buffaloes. After another year on the Buffs beat that resulted in winning the inaugural BSN Denver Silver Slugger award—given to the writer whose stories generated the most traffic—I was promoted to the Broncos beat. In my time at BSN, I’ve had the pleasure of covering a Super Bowl, a Pac-12 Championship, a bowl game, multiple games in the NCAA Tournament and so much more. Somewhere along the way, I earned that fancy title you see at the top of all this. Most memorable sports moment: Nov. 23, 2001: Behind SIX Chris Brown rushing touchdowns, the No. 14 Colorado Buffaloes trounce the No. 2 Nebraska Cornhuskers by a count of 62-36. It was the day I fell in love with college football for good. So much so that I haven’t missed a single Buffs’ home game since. The finest sports book I’ve ever read: I don’t know about finest, but when I was in elementary school, I read every single Matt Christopher book in our school library. It was the best way to not stray away from sports while still filling those pesky reading logs. One sports movie that I can’t live without: When I was a kid, I didn’t have cable in my room but I did have a TV with a VCR. Thing is, I only had a few movies on VCR and I needed to have the TV on to fall asleep. Well, eventually I came around to the fact that the best movie I had was “Cool Runnings,” so I feel asleep to the Jamaican Bobsled team every night for years. You need sleep to live and I couldn’t sleep without “Cool Runnings” SO I guess that’s the one I can’t live without. Most memorable experience as a reporter: Pretty hard to beat the week leading up  to Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco. To be at the center of the sports world with not only the greatest athletes but also the greatest sports journalists in the world all around was a truly special experience. Between wake up calls at 4:45 am to catch the media shuttle to the Broncos hotel by 6, the 14-hour work days and the regrettable post-work festivities, I calculated that I got about 20 hours of sleep over an eight-day period… and I wouldn’t have traded one minute of it all. That was awesome. The sport that started it all: It’s hard to pinpoint one sport that truly “started it all” for me. When I was a kid, I remember people used to always ask me what my favorite sport was, and I would always answer the same thing, “Whatever sport is in season.” As long as I can remember, my life has always revolved directly around sports, from playing to watching to writing. It’s not a sport that started it all, it sports that started it all.