ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With linebacker Von Miller set to remain with his team over the next 10 days, the Broncos will continue to see what the third-year linebacker can do on the field and what it will take to replace him during his suspension.
“We’re going to have to have guys play better,’’ is how Broncos coach John Fox put it. “Guys are going to have to step up. I know it’s next man up, but he’s a hard man to replace. But the guys around him have to play better, the guys on the other side of the ball have to play better.’’
Miller was suspended for the first six games of the regular season, a suspension that formally begins Aug. 31 as the Broncos begin their preparations for the Sept. 5 regular-season opener against the Baltimore Ravens. Should he choose to remain in Denver during the suspension, and the Broncos certainly want him to, Miller can sit in on meetings, work out at the Broncos complex and interact with his coaches and teammates. He just can’t practice and he can’t play.
But everybody involved knows what’s at stake now for a gifted player with two Pro Bowl appearances and 30 sacks combined in his first two NFL seasons. If they don't, all they really have to do is scan the league's drug policy to see for themselves that another violation of the league’s substance abuse policy -- a failed test, a missed test, a major stumble in procedure -- and Miller, as its written clearly in the document, will be suspended for at least a year.
“We’re frustrated with what’s happened, disappointed in Von,’’ said Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway just after the suspension was announced Tuesday. “But I think the way I’ve looked at this, and will continue to look at this, is the decision that’s come down, we live with that decision. And what I’d like to do is whatever we have to do to prevent any other situations. Whatever we have to do as an organization to try and help Von, we want to be able to do.’’
“Put aside the fact that he’s a good football player,’’ Elway continued. “Him as a person, if we can get him help to help him take that next step in the maturation process, we want to do that.’’
To reach the suspension phase means Miller was already in Stage Two of the league’s drug policy, which means he was already subject to unannounced testing up to 10 times a calendar month, according to the policy. And according to the policy, once in Stage Three, as Miller is right now, he stays in Stage Three “for the remainder of his NFL career.’’
Miller will be subject to unannounced testing, up to 10 times per calendar month, for the remainder of his career. The testing schedule will be set at “the sole discretion of the medical advisor.’’ The policy also states that players in Stage Three, like Miller, are tested for the “Drug Panel and alcohol.’’
A violation in Stage Three and the player is “banished from the NFL for a minimum period of one calendar year.’’ The policy adds that even if a player is eventually reinstated after a year out, “he will remain in Stage Three for the remainder of his NFL career, subject to continued testing and indefinite banishement.’’
Players in the testing program must also “provide the Medical Advisor and the Medical Director with an address and telephone numbers where they can be reached at all times.’’
In short, Miller has plenty at stake here if pro football is to continue to be his chosen vocation. This isn’t going to simply pass, he’s now going to be tested up to 10 times a month for as long as he remains in the league.
He has to understand that, the Broncos have to understand that, and perhaps most importantly the people around Miller, the ones who want to go places and do things, who believe they are his friends, are going to have to understand that.