The NFL on Tuesday slapped Broncos star linebacker Von Miller with a six-game suspension for violating its drug policy.
Never mind the Baltimore Ravens. The Broncos' chances to win the Super Bowl were delivered a serious blow by the league office.
The suspension comes after league officials and Miller's lawyers finalized a resolution Tuesday.
The suspension is without pay. Miller was scheduled to draw a $2,284,125 salary this season. The six missed checks over a 17-week season will cost him $806,162.
"Although my suspension doesn't result from a positive test, there is no excuse for my violations of the rules," Miller said in a statement. "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.
The suspension begins with the start of the season. He is expected to start in the Broncos' preseason game Saturday night against St. Louis at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Broncos coach John Fox said in a statement:
"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."
In Miller's first two NFL seasons he won the defensive rookie of the year award, earned two Pro Bowl appearances and registered 30 sacks.
In the Broncos' first six games of 2013, Miller will give the team nothing. The Broncos first six games, in order, are Baltimore at home (Sept. 5), the New York Giants on the road (Sept. 15), Oakland (Sept. 23) and Philadelphia (Sept. 23) at home, at Dallas (Oct. 6) and against Jacksonville at Sports Authority Field at Mile High (Oct. 13).
Miller won't return to the Broncos until their Oct. 20 game at Indianapolis, a homecoming game for quarterback Peyton Manning. Miller will share the spotlight that week for all the wrong reasons.
"Life is hard in general," Miller said after practice Tuesday. "I'm blessed to be in the situation I'm in. I'm blessed to be here with the Denver Broncos, blessed to have great teammates."
He later added: "I've just got to grow up, be more mature and take care of business."
Wearing No. 58, Miller practiced with the Broncos' first-team defense Tuesday, but coach John Fox must start concentrating on Plan B. The Broncos could play Nate Irving at Miller's strongside linebacker spot, although the team just signed Paris Lenon, a 36-year-old inside linebacker who started the past eight NFL seasons with Green Bay, Detroit, St. Louis and Arizona.
It could be that the Broncos start a linebacking trio of Danny Trevathan at weakside, Wesley Woodyard in the middle, and Irving or Shaun Phillips at strongside. Or Lenon could start at either middle or strongside linebacker, alongside Woodyard and Trevathan.
In an odd twist, Stewart Bradley could not beat out Lenon the past two seasons in Arizona at middle linebacker. Bradley was the Broncos' starting middle linebacker until he suffered a left wrist injury Saturday that required surgery.
And now Lenon was brought in with the intent of replacing him again.
At the moment, replacing Bradley is not the Broncos' greatest concern. Miller initially got sideways with the NFL drug policy when he tested positive several times for marijuana and an undisclosed amphetamine early in his rookie season of 2011.
The NFL flagged Miller for failing its drug test earlier this year. He appealed what he and his representatives figured was a four-game suspension. However the NFL did its due diligence in investigating the case and found Miller had other issues with its testing program the past two years and tacked on two more games.
The reaction at Dove Valley? There's disappointment, sure, but this is a transient business where careers are short and close friends walk out of the locker room — for good — every week. They will treat the Miller suspension as if he broke a bone that will completely heal six weeks into the season.
"Von is one of our teammates, he's part of the family and I certainly have his back as his teammate and I know that all of the players do and the organization does," said quarterback Peyton manning. "We'll get through this time and we support him 100 percent."
With Von Miller gone...
How the loss of the Broncos' star pass rusher, Von Miller, might impact Denver's defense in the six games he'll be suspended:
Sept. 5 vs. Baltimore
Even with Miller and Elvis Dumervil, Broncos had negligible pass rush against Joe Flacco in playoff loss last season.
Sept. 15 at N.Y. Giants
Eli Manning, like his brother, gets rid of the ball quickly; he took the fewest sacks among NFL QBs last season.
Sept. 23 vs. Oakland
Lost starting left tackle, making Matt Flynn vulnerable to a good pass rush.
Sept. 29 vs. Philadelphia
When contained, Michael Vick takes his lumps.
Oct. 6 at Dallas
Porous offensive line contributed to career-worst 36 sacks of Tony Romo last season.
Oct. 13 vs. Jacksonville
Miller would have been expected to rattle Blaine Gabbert.