Von Miller will miss the first six games of the 2013 regular season. (Jack Dempsey/AP)
The Sword of Damocles the Denver Broncos have been awaiting? The NFL dropped it on Tuesday afternoon, when it was officially announced that outside linebacker Von Miller will be suspended for the first six games of the 2013 NFL season for violations of the league's substance-abuse policy.
"The Substances of Abuse policy requires everyone to comply with the rules," Miller said in a statement. "Although my suspension doesn’t result from a positive test, there is no excuse for my violations of the rules. I made mistakes and my suspension has hurt my team, Broncos fans, and myself. I am especially sorry for the effect of my bad decisions on others. I will not make the same mistakes about adhering to the policy in the future. During my time off the field, I will work tirelessly and focus exclusively on remaining in peak shape. I look forward to contributing immediately upon my return to the field and bringing a championship back to the people of Denver."
Miller would be scheduled to return to action for the Broncos on Oct. 20, when they face the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
According to multiple sources and reported by multiple outlets, Miller was flagged in the testing process for a diluted sample, and the NFL announced that he would be suspended as a result. Miller had already tested positive for marijuana and amphetamines in 2011, and there was some discussion as to whether Miller would appeal the testing process leading to that result. He met last Thursday to decide whether to appeal his current suspension, and decided not to at that time.
“Obviously, we’re frustrated with what’s happened—and disappointed in Von," Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway said. "I think the way that I’ve looked at this, and we’ll continue to look at this, is the fact that the decision that’s come down—we’ll live with that decision. What I’d like to do is try to do everything we can to prevent any other situations. Whatever we have to do as an organization to try to help Von, we want to be able to do. Put aside the fact that he’s a good football player—him as a person. And it’s time that if we can get him help to help him take that next step in the maturation process, we want to do that. We’ll take it one step at a time and the first step now is to make sure that we’re getting Von the help that he needs to get.”
Miller ran with the ones in Denver's Tuesday afternoon practice. The Broncos are preparing to play the St. Louis Rams this Saturday.
"I’m blessed to be here, to play with the Denver Broncos, blessed to have great fans and teammates," Miller told the Denver media after practice, but before the news broke. "The witness thing, I didn’t have anything to do with it. Never, ever even seen the guy. Anything about that stuff, I can just go ahead and dismiss that right now. I was one of probably one of 100 people on that list. I had no knowledge about that. The ticket thing, that was me. I’ve just got to be more responsible. It was a ticket from back in November. I’m not making any excuses like I said before. I’ve just got to grow up, be more mature and take care of business.”
Miller, the second overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, ranked third in the NFL in sacks last season with 18.5, behind Houston's J.J. Watt and San Francisco's Aldon Smith. Denver's depth at pass rusher was already compromised when the team lost defensive end Elvis Dumervil to the Baltimore Ravens, and end Derek Wolfe was injured in a loss last Saturday to the Seattle Seahawks. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard may be pressed into service in that role, and the Broncos signed veteran linebacker Paris Lenon on Tuesday.
“Von has acknowledged making some mistakes in the past and is now being held accountable under the policies the league has in place," Broncos head coach John Fox said in his statement. "While it’s very disappointing that we will be without him for the start of the season, we will support him as a football team and organization. All of us will stand by Von and help him however possible as he continues his personal growth off the field.
“Replacing him on the field will not be easy, but every team must deal with adversity. We will plan accordingly and be prepared. I am confident our team will step up and meet the challenge. I expect Von to stay in excellent shape and be ready to play at a high level when he returns to the Broncos.”