One the surface, the news that Broncos kicker Matt Prater will be suspended four games under the substance-abuse policy doesn’t generate much curiosity. For most players suspended under the substance-abuse policy, the first sign of any trouble comes via the news of a four-game suspension.
Prater’s case has some unique facts that invite plenty of questions, however.
As first reported by Mike Klis of the Denver Post, Prater’s violation relates to alcohol. Absent more specifics, it’s impossible to know whether Prater generated a positive urine test for alcohol or violated the policy in some other way.
A positive test for alcohol would be somewhat unusual, given the speed with which alcohol leaves the body. In this case, Prater’s consumption would have occurred very close in time to the test, if he indeed generated a positive test.
The bigger question comes from the news, as also first reported by Klis, that Prater faced a one-year suspension, but that with the help of unofficial Broncos lawyer Harvey Steinberg the suspension was reduced to four games. This implies that the reduction came via negotiations between the NFL and Steinberg, and that Steinberg must have had some strong ammunition to persuade the league to cut the punishment by 75 percent.
A proposed one-year suspension for Prater also would be very unusual, given that a player typically doesn’t face a one-year suspension under the substance-abuse policy without a prior suspension. It’s possible that the league accused Prater of shenanigans relating to the testing process; that’s reportedly what transpired a year ago, when linebacker Von Miller’s proposed one-year suspension under the substance-abuse policy was reduced to six games, thanks in part (reportedly) to wrongdoing committed by the NFL’s sample collector.
The news that Steinberg achieved a 12-game reduction for Prater could be viewed as good news for Browns receiver Josh Gordon, who currently faces a one-year suspension. But if Prater’s reduced suspension arose from negotiations between the NFL and Steinberg, the development has no current relevance to Gordon, since no negotiations have occurred between the NFL and Gordon’s representatives on something other than a full-year banishment.
Regardless, the Prater suspension raises more questions than it answers.