When former NFL/XFL quarterback Ben DiNucci threw an interception during the weekend’s rookie minicamp - that also featured a few try-out veterans - his new head coach had no mercy.
Since the INT occurred right in front of owner Greg Penner, Sean Payton joked with the QB that if things didn’t work out on the field, he might have opportunities elsewhere.
“I was telling Greg before practice how this Ben DiNucci was doing well. I told Ben—I said, ‘You know, he owns Walmart. If it doesn’t work out here, I’m sure there’s a greeting opportunity somewhere at one of his local stores,” Payton said.
Harsh (even if Payton acknowledged that the pick was probably more of just a great play by rookie draft pick Drew Sanders than a bad one by DiNucci).
But this isn’t DiNucci’s first rodeo. He knows that was a joke ... for now.
He also knows how fragile his time as a pro quarterback could be and that at any moment another job besides QB could be his future.
“I think for me, this second opportunity to be in an NFL locker room is different this time around,” DiNucci told the Denver Post. “Might be my last chance, might not get another one.”
Before leading the XFL in passing yards (2,671) and touchdowns (20), DiNucci’s most recent NFL adventure was on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad where he landed in 2021 (after playing a few games and getting one start for the Cowboys in 2020).
In fact, Mile High probably feels a little familiar to him as DiNucci was on the squad for last seaon’s joint practices with the Cowboys.
As DiNucci’s XFL team, Seattle Sea Dragons, prepared for the playoffs just a few weeks ago, the QB was taking calls from a couple of NFL teams.
But Denver caught his eye mainly because of the coach.
“Coach Payton’s track record really speaks for itself,” he told The Post. “His offense, his quarterbacks have always produced. So to be able to learn from him, pick his brain a little bit, he’s top-notch when it comes to quarterbacks coaches.”
DiNucci also has another XFL standout on the squad, Jacques Patrick, who will also be hoping to break into the Broncos’ final 53.
“It was a rebound opportunity, that’s really what it is,” the 6-foot-2, 239-pound running back told The Post. “‘Bro, I remember my first couple of years in the (NFL) playing and then getting cut in the preseason and then the phone wasn’t ringing.”
After rushing for 443 yards in the XFL this past year, (and tacking on another 238 yards receiving), Patrick is ready to showcase his talent.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the NFL, but it’s not far off,” Patrick told The Post. “Guys can play. You can see the guys that have been getting an invitation. It’s definitely a step above college in that way. Not necessarily the NFL, but it’s definitely tape you can put on and judge if it translates to the NFL, for sure.”
The head coach could not care less where these guys came from.
“You’re trying to bring in the right group at 90 when you get down to it,” Payton said, adding that sometimes guys jump out right away and sometimes it’s a week or two before something shows up that jumps out. “Really trying to make sure we don’t read about one of these guys that was here today somewhere else.”
??@ZacStevensDNVR went around the Broncos locker room during rookie minicamp this weekend to see which team the 2023 draft picks had winning the Western Conference Finals:#BroncosCountry #StepUpTime pic.twitter.com/FZtTUH3T7r— DNVR Broncos (@DNVR_Broncos) May 15, 2023
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