ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – If Von Miller is worried about the possibility of his looming four-game suspension to start the season, he sure isn’t showing it.
The All-Pro strongside linebacker has had a terrific first few days of practice for the Denver Broncos after declaring on the eve of training camp that he did nothing wrong when word got out that he was facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
At a news conference before camp started, Miller said marijuana was “absolutely not” a part of his life. He later hinted that at 24, he was a changed man, saying, “the guy I was yesterday is not the guy I am today. That guy I was two, three, four years ago is not the guy I am.”
His teammates, notably Peyton Manning and Champ Bailey, are standing tall behind him.
“I’m saying I know he wouldn’t jeopardize his career,” Bailey said. “I’d be surprised if he got suspended four games. It’s surprising. I just know he loves football and he shows it the way he prepares and the way he works. That’s what I know of the guy.”
If Miller loses his appeal, which is expected to be heard in mid-August, he’ll have to leave the team on Aug. 30 and sit out all of September, missing games against the Ravens, Raiders and Eagles at home and Giants on the road.
Until the team hears otherwise, the Broncos are treating Miller as though he’ll be in the starting lineup when they open the season Sept. 5 against Super Bowl champion Baltimore. Coach John Fox said putting in contingency plans now would be silly, akin to sitting Manning “in case he got hurt.”
The Broncos are mulling plenty of options, though, including backup strongside linebacker Shaun Phillips, rookie defensive end Quanterus Smith and middle linebacker Nate Irving to fill the void. But they have to strike a delicate balance between having a Plan B in place if they’re without their superstar in September and having Miller ready for the rest of the season.
Miller, who was named Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2011, has 30 sacks over the last two seasons and consistently commands double teams.
“For us really, I think Coach Fox has laid it out pretty well. We’re going to come in here and go to work in camp. We’ll worry about things we need to worry about, if and when that may occur,” defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. “We’re not going to deal with hypotheticals. We’re not going to do all that. We’re going to come in here and work this football team and get ready to start the regular season ready to roll.”
– By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer
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