DENVER -- Denver cut punter Todd Sauerbrun on Tuesday, the day he was supposed to come back from a four-game suspension for using the banned dietary supplement ephedra.
Sauerbrun's agent, David Canter, told The Associated Press the Broncos informed him they were keeping Paul Ernster, who has kicked well in Sauerbrun's absence.
"If it had to do with winning football games, they would've kept him on the roster," Canter said. "He's one of the best. He's disappointed. He feels he could've been a catalyst on the team."
The Broncos didn't immediately return a phone call.
Sauerbrun, a 12-year veteran, said he knowingly took an over-the-counter weight-loss product this summer that he strongly suspected contained ephedra, which the NFL banned after the death of Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Korey Stringer during training camp in 2001. Players are randomly tested and can be suspended after the first violation.
Sauerbrun came over from Carolina last season and averaged 43.8 yards a punt, won a player of the week award and even forced a fumble with a tackle against New England. After learning of his suspension just before training camp began in July, he said he felt foolish about taking the supplement in what he described as a misguided attempt to lose weight and gain gusto for his workouts.
At the time, coach Mike Shanahan said he was disappointed.
"He's the only guy on the team which I don't care if he's fat. I don't care if he's 30 pounds overweight," he said. "All you've got to do is punt the ball. Kick it into the end zone."
Ernster has averaged 44.2 yards per punt through four games this season. He also had seven kicks stop inside the 20-yard line. Ernster has handled kickoffs as well, with four of his 14 kicks resulting in touchbacks.
A seventh-round choice in the 2005 draft, the former Northern Arizona standout handled the kickoff duties for the Broncos in the season opener last year and then spent the rest of the year on injured reserve, with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
"He's very grateful for the opportunity the Broncos have given him," said Ernster's agent, Brett Tessler. "He won the job the old-fashioned way -- he earned it."
After Denver's 13-3 win over Baltimore on Monday night, Ernster said he felt good about his audition. He felt he did everything he could to win the punting spot.
"If it doesn't work out, I can go out knowing I gave it my best shot and worked as hard as I can," Ernster said.
Asked if he thought he'd still be on the team for Sunday's game with Oakland, Ernster grinned.
"I'm an optimist," he said.
There is also a financial element involved in the Broncos' decision to retain Ernster and to release Sauerbrun.
A three-time Pro Bowl performer, Sauerbrun was scheduled to earn a $1.395 million base salary this season, although he forfeited $328,235 of that because of the suspension. His base salary for 2007 was to have been $1.5 million.
Ernster has a base salary of $275,000 this season and of $360,000 in 2007.
Information from ESPN.com senior NFL writer Len Pasquarelli and The Associated Press was used in this report.