The news broke Monday that Broncos star linebacker Von Miller is facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. It is unclear what substances Miller has tested positive for, but The Denver Post reported that he tested positive for both amphetamines and steroids during his rookie season. Miller has already chosen to appeal the decision, meaning that the suspension is not definite at this point. Miller has it going in his favor that the NFL breached a confidentiality clause, as they were required not to make any announcements on the situation until Miller had failed his appeal. Still, if Miller has again tested positive for a banned substance, he will likely and deservedly be suspended for four games.
An anonymous teammate spoke out on the situation, saying, “He’s a different guy, but I never thought he would risk his career. Gotta help him bounce back now. Can’t turn my back on him. Disappointed yet concerned about the man. Still love him, though.” Miller himself even commented on his potential suspension by tweeting, “I know I did nothing wrong. I’m sure this’ll be resolved fairly. Disapp. Broncos have 2 open camp like this.” Despite Miller’s self-declared innocence, it has become incredibly hard to trust athletes who deny allegations of drug use (thanks Ryan Braun). However, Miller was correct that it is very disappointing for the Broncos to have to open training camp this way. This pending suspension is just another thorn in the Broncos’ side, along with the drunk driving incidents of top executives Matt Russell and Tom Heckert. But even with all of these offseason headaches and the potential loss of a superstar, the Broncos will endure.
Von Miller had 18.5 sacks last season. He is the best outside linebacker in the NFL. He’s one of the ten best overall players in the NFL. And yes, the Broncos lost his pass-rushing counterpart Elvis Dumervil this offseason. But even without Miller for four games, the Broncos’ fate for the 2013 season remains unchanged. Despite a 13-3 regular season record last year, the Broncos have the weakest strength of schedule this season. Three of their first four games are at home, and only one of them is against a playoff team from last season. And let’s not forget that the Broncos play in one of the worst divisions in the NFL. The Raiders and Chargers have not made any moves that signal major record changes, and while the Chiefs will improve, they will not go from worst-to-first this year. Oh yeah, and the Broncos have that guy Peyton Manning, who alone makes them the AFC West favorites.
There is no one on the Broncos’ roster, let alone in the NFL, who could play up to Von Miller’s level in his absence. However, the Broncos do have some pieces that can fill in for him nicely. They signed proven veteran Shaun Phillips this offseason, and former first-round pick Robert Ayers has been eagerly awaiting his time to shine. The total production of the Broncos’ defense will surely drop in Miller’s absence, but the unit should still play well.
Before news of this suspension broke, Von Miller guaranteed that the Broncos would win the Super Bowl this season. While guaranteeing a Super Bowl nowadays is certainly not as meaningful as it was when Joe Namath did it, Miller might have been on to something. Even without him for four games, the Broncos remain as strong of a Super Bowl contender as any team in the NFL.
– PJ Moran