DENVER – Matt Prater’s lawyer said the NFL initially threatened a yearlong suspension before agreeing to ban the Denver Broncos kicker four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Harvey Steinberg said Prater’s suspension was alcohol-related. He said Prater consumed a couple of beers while on vacation in between the end of the team’s offseason workout program in June and the start of training camp in late July.
Prater has been in the league’s substance abuse program since he was charged with DUI on Aug. 12, 2011.
An NFL spokesman declined to confirm the suspension, which first was reported by the Denver Post overnight Sunday. The Broncos have declined to comment on the matter.
“As difficult as it is to have to deal with the suspension, I think Matt’s very positive about his future,” Steinberg told The Associated Press. “He’s handling this in a positive manner. Once this is over, he will really benefit from all the circumstances, and he’ll be better for it, and that’s really what’s important.”
Prater’s suspension for the first five weeks – the Broncos’ bye is in Week 4 – could be a big blow to the Broncos, who are trying to become the first team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins to win a Super Bowl the year after losing it.
Prater led the league last year by making 25-of-26 field goals (96.2 percent), including a record-breaking 64-yarder in December against Tennessee. He also led the NFL with 81 kickoff touchbacks and scored 150 of Denver’s record 606 points.
His absence will put more pressure on Peyton Manning and his receivers and running backs to score touchdowns.
The addition of rookie wide receiver Cody Latimer, who is 6-2 and 215 pounds, should make it easier for Denver to convert in the red zone, where Latimer can line up with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (6-3, 229) and tight end Julius Thomas (6-5, 250) to create matchup nightmares for defenses.
Prater missed 2-of-4 field-goal tries this preseason, including a 49-yarder in an 18-17 loss to Houston on Saturday night. He was good from 32 yards to open the scoring, but the football sailed haphazardly through the uprights because he kicked the ground as he made contact.
His backup is Mitch Ewald, a rookie from Indiana, although the Broncos might look to bring in a veteran kicker while he serves his suspension, which covers games against Arizona, Kansas City, Indianapolis and Seattle.
“I’ve made some mistakes,” Prater told the Post. “I’m accepting full responsibility. I’ll learn from it and come back a better person. I want to apologize to my teammates, my coaches, the Broncos’ organization and the fans.”