ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Even as Von Miller’s Broncos teammates go about their business of preparing for the Jacksonville Jaguars this week, Miller closes in on his return from a six-game suspension for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy.
Miller, who per the league policy has attended meetings with the Denver Broncos and used the team’s strength and conditioning facilities over the last six weeks, but has neither practiced with the team or played in games, will be eligible to return to practice Monday and can play in his first game a week from Sunday in Indianapolis.
His teammates say Miller’s working hard in the weight room -- Wesley Woodyard said “he looks great’’ -- and Broncos coach John Fox has said Miller has been given the opportunity to get the help he needs as he prepares for his return. But one of the nation’s leading experts on high-profile athletes in the public domain says, at least from his view, one major item has been missing from Miller over the last six weeks.
“The athletes who don’t apologize, who try to dodge these type of things, the endorsements dry up, and the public forms an opinion about them,’’ said Bob Williams, CEO of Burns Entertainment and Sports Marketing in suburban Chicago. Williams’ firm pairs some of the nation's largest companies with high-profile athletes and celebrities to pitch their products or services.
And Williams believes as Miller, who has ongoing deals with Gatorade and Adidas to go with a deal with a local car dealership that was in place before his suspension, tries to rebuild his image and his career, the third-year linebacker has already made a mistake in that attempt.
“The time to apologize has already passed for the most part,’’ Williams said. “The time to apologize was weeks ago, now people, especially people in the endorsement community, aren’t going to buy it now. You had weeks to say something and now you look guilty, you seem guilty whether you are or not. The silence points people to the idea that you’re not really sorry about these things, that may be you don’t feel like these are bad things and that’s a terrible place to be if you want to be an endorser or an athlete who is visible on both a local and national level."
On advice Miller has received from those around him, the third-year linebacker has not spoken publicly since his suspension was formally handed down by the league in August. In the weeks since Miller has been subject to stories linking him to a missed court appearance, some traffic citations as well as a report from ESPN Insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter that Miller tried to influence a test collector, which in part resulted in the six-game suspension.
Miller released a statement immediately following his suspension that said in part that ”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.’’ The statement also said; “I will not make the same mistakes about adhering to the policy in the future.’’
His last public statement was on the practice field just before his suspension was announced and at that time Miller said; "The media, they can do some crazy stuff to you and paint a different picture. But the fans know me for going out there, laying it all on the field, being a great teammate, entertaining the fans and just being the fun Von. That’s who I am, that’s who I’ve always been, that’s who I’ll continue to be."
Miller is expected to speak publicly at the Broncos complex for the first time since his suspension next week, possibly as early as Monday.