By Rich Kurtzman
What a day for the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts.
With their highly anticipated Sunday Night Football kickoff game slated only five days away, each team got some negative news on Tuesday.
First it was Jim Irsay, owner of the Colts, who was sentenced for driving under the influence in Indiana and then saw additional punishment come down from National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell. Irsay, who was arrested last March, was suspended for six games as well as a maximum fine of $500,000 on Tuesday.
“I acknowledge the mistake I made last March and stand responsible for the consequences of that mistake, for which I sincerely apologize to our community and to Colts fans everywhere,” Irsay said in a statement released by the Colts.
“Even more importantly, though, I am committed to do everything in my power to turn this whole experience into a positive event for myself, my family, and the community. In retrospect, I now know that the incident opened my eyes to issues in my life that needed addressing and helped put me on the path to regain my health. I truly hope and pray that my episode will help in some small measure to diminish the stigma surrounding our country’s terrible and deadly problem of addiction.”
Then, on Tuesday evening, word broke that Welker had been suspended, too.
For Welker, reports indicate he was suspended the first four games of the season for breaking the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. The Denver Post‘s two sources say the Broncos’ star slot receiver was busted for taking the amphetamine Adderall while at the Kentucky Derby in early May. Adderall is used to treat Attention Deficit and Hyperactive Disorder in children and adults and the drug has been focused on by the league in recent years as it’s popularity among players has grown.
Welker’s importance to the Broncos’ offense is clear; being the slot receiver is about running option routes and being on the same page with the quarterback. He was the team’s go-to guy on third downs, a great threat in the redzone scoring a career-high 10 touchdowns last year; Welker was Manning’s safety blanket when things got tough.
While Welker’s suspension is four games and Irsay’s is six – holding the owner to the higher standard – Pro Football Talk points out the league doesn’t hold Irsay to a higher standard when money is concerned. A $500,000 fine is hefty, sure, but Welker will be fined $1.88M due to the current collective bargaining agreement.
Either way, now Denver will be without Welker and valuable kicker Matt Prater, who was suspended four games for a DUI of his own.
The Broncos have a tough stretch of games to start the season, too; they host the Colts Sunday night, host divisional rival the Kansas City Chiefs, fly to Seattle to play the Seahawks and then host the Arizona Cardinals in early October.
Without their top third down receiver and clutch kicker, Denver could lose to difficult opponents close. Only time will tell.
For more Broncos news and updates, visit Broncos Central.
Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Rich is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.