Because we pointed out earlier today that the Denver Broncos can’t send receiver Brandon Marshall home with pay, we already had the CBA open to the page containing the rules regarding suspensions for conduct detrimental to the team.
Here’s the key text, from the labor contract: “Conduct detrimental to Club — maximum fine of an amount equal to one week’s salary and/or suspension without pay for a period not to exceed four (4) weeks.”
So what does this mean when a suspension is applied on August 28, two weeks before the start of the regular season?
In the end, it could be an issue for an arbitrator to resolve. (Or, possibly, the “Special Master,” who apparently wasn’t content with being called only a “Master.”)
As we interpret the language (and I’m neither an arbitrator nor a Master, special or otherwise), the Broncos had the option of fining Marshall up to four weeks’ salary or suspend him for up to four weeks, or both.
At a minimum, the Broncos have chosen to suspend Marshall for an undetermined period of time. If they opt for the maximum, Marshall could be suspended until September 25, which would cause him to miss two regular-season games and most of the preparation for Week Three.
At some point, they’ll need to designate a duration. Though the CBA isn’t clear on the deadline in this regard, the notion that a team could suspend a player and tell him “we’ll let you know when we want you back, but it’ll be at some point in the next four weeks” doesn’t seem fair, and that visceral sense of fair often comes into play when there’s room for interpretation in the rules that have been established.
The bigger question is whether and to what extent the Broncos will fine Marshall. In the preseason, when players aren’t receiving game checks, what is a week’s salary? Is it a regular-season game check, or is it a week’s worth of per diems?
At some point, the Broncos will make their position on these issues known. Then, Marshall and the NFLPA will have to decide whether to fight the issue. (An interesting subplot in this regard will be whether the union will hire Jeffrey Kessler to handle the case; if he isn’t, it would strengthen the perception that the new regime is phasing him out.)
In the end, we might have another T.O.-Eagles showdown.
And, in this case, there could be multiple rounds. The CBA allows the teams to impose multiple suspensions of up to four weeks. So, if Marshall doesn’t change his ways, he might be suspended again and again.
For now, though, it doesn’t look good for Marshall. As one league source pointed out after viewing the video of Marshall’s recent practice antics, “He’s not gonna have a leg to stand on” if he appeals the suspension.