You don't expect kickers to end up on the NFL's suspended list, but it happened to Denver's Matt Prater. And it's because he had a couple of beers at home, his lawyer said.
Prater, one of the league's best kickers because of his range on field goals and ability to get touchbacks on kickoffs, will miss the first four games of the season according to the Denver Post. His suspension is a violation of the substance-abuse policy, and is alcohol related, the Post said. Prater had been in the league's alcohol program since he was charged with a DUI on Aug. 12, 2011. Once a player is in the program, any positive tests can result in an automatic suspension, which is what happened with Prater.
The NFL had threatened a year-long suspension but Prater's attorney Harvey Steinberg worked out a deal for only four games, the Post said.
"No one feels worse about this than Matt Prater," Steinberg said. "He feels terribly for his teammates. It's cost him personally, both professionally and financially. I wonder if we shouldn't take a second look at the policy when only a couple beers were consumed at home while he was on vacation. Having said that, the NFL under the constraints of the policy couldn't have treated us better."
Now, who knows if Steinberg is stretching the truth about Prater having "a couple beers" at home on vacation, because the league's program is confidential. But here's a reminder that Baltimore running back Ray Rice got suspended only two games for a domestic abuse incident against the woman who is now his wife.
Prater set a league record for touchbacks with 81 last season. He is 21-of-27 in his career on field goals of 50 yards or longer, the best percentage of any kicker who started his career after 1970. He set a NFL record with a 64-yard field goal last season and a franchise record with 150 points, as a key part of an offense that set a league record for points in a season. This is no small loss for the Broncos, who have rookie Mitch Ewald as the only other kicker on the roster.
The Broncos probably didn't want to deal with their kicker being suspended for a quarter of the season as they try to defend their AFC championship, but they'll sign someone off the street for the first month or go with the untested Ewald and hope none of their first four games come down to a long field goal at the end.
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