ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Von Miller lined up at his usual position Monday and flashed the freakish athletic moves that might soon be missing from the Denver Broncos’ ramshackle defense.
The All-Pro linebacker brushed past reporters after another stellar practice, choosing not to stop and talk about the latest report that he could be facing an even longer suspension that originally thought.
ESPN reported that Miller might have to sit out at least six games for violating the league’s drug abuse policy. Previously, it was believed Miller was facing a monthlong suspension to start the 2013 season.
Miller had repeatedly expressed confidence he was going to successfully win an appeal of any pending penalty, insisting he had “done nothing wrong.” Now, Miller is unlikely to go forward with such an appeal, which was expected to be heard Tuesday, ESPN reported.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told The Associated Press, “We have nothing to report” on the matter, and Miller’s agent, Joby Branion, didn’t return a phone call from the AP.
Without definitive word from the league that a suspension was forthcoming, the Broncos once again had Miller line up with the rest of the No. 1 defense at practice.
“Well, there’s really no ‘latest,’” coach John Fox said afterward. “We are aware of reports and sometimes it’s erroneous because I think we’d probably find out before other people. … There is no suspension and at which time there is, we’ll report that. But anything else right now is really just talking heads.”
Miller, who has 30 sacks in his first two NFL seasons, is the fulcrum of coordinator Jack Del Rio’s defense, consistently commanding double teams. He’s a major reason, along with Peyton Manning, that oddsmakers favor the Broncos to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
Two other key members of Denver’s defense were missing Monday as cornerback Champ Bailey (sprained left foot) and lineman Derek Wolfe (cervical spine) were held out after getting hurt in a preseason game at Seattle last weekend.
“You can’t be nervous, but the guys you just mentioned are some great players,” safety Rahim Moore said. “So, we have to just move on. It did feel a little different out there without them.”
Denver’s defense would look a whole lot different minus Miller, the NFL’s 2011 Defensive Rookie of the Year and runner-up last season for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.
“Absolutely, it’s a loss that you don’t want to have,” Moore said. “He is a tremendous athlete, a tremendous player, a tremendous friend. So, I pray to God that he doesn’t get suspended.”
Miller has been able to put aside the specter of a suspension — along with a recent arrest for failing to appear in court for traffic violations — to have a terrific training camp, showing everyone just what the Broncos will be missing if he’s banished for any length of time.
On Thursday when Miller was meeting with lawyers, Nate Irving played strongside linebacker and Shaun Phillips filled in at rush end for Miller, but middle linebacker Stewart Bradley hurt his left wrist Saturday night, throwing another wrench into the ever-developing contingency plans.
On Monday, Malik Jackson replaced Wolfe, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie filled in for Bailey, Bubba Caldwell replaced Wes Welker (ankle) and C.J. Davis was at right guard for Louis Vasquez (knee). Also, recently signed center Ryan Lilja was sidelined with a sore knee, keeping Manny Ramirez as Manning’s primary snapper.
It’s unlikely Bailey, Wolfe or Welker will play again in the preseason, but the Broncos hope to have all three for their Sept. 5 opener against Baltimore.
Wolfe was allowed to return to Denver on the team’s charter Saturday night after tests at a Seattle hospital, where he was taken via ambulance after being strapped to a backboard following a collision with Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson.
“I think there is some soreness, as you’d expect, but from a medical standpoint, he’s fine,” Fox said.
The Broncos are counting on the second-year pro who had six sacks from the tackle position as a rookie last year to help fill the void if the NFL does suspend Miller.
If Miller is banished, he’ll have to leave the team on Aug. 30.
“We’ve got to continue to be good teammates and support him whether it’s four games, no games, six games,” linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. “We’re still going to be there for him.”