In timing that can only seem fortuitous for the league, the NFL suspended Denver Broncos slot-receiver Wes Welker for four games for violating league’s performance-enhancement policy on the same day the league announced a six-game suspension and $500,000 fine for Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay for driving while intoxicated.
The league had faced criticism over a perceived double standard for owners and players, and Tuesday’s announcements seemed to be an attempt to mollify critics claiming owners benefited from preferential treatment. Or perhaps it was just a really big coincidence. The news about Irsay was minimized in its effect because of Welker’s suspension.
The Broncos were upset that the league eschewed its usual policy of issuing suspensions on Monday; the team was already preparing for their game on Sunday and the announcement Tuesday night came after they had finished planning for their regular-season opener Sunday night against Indianapolis.
Welker tested positive for an amphetamine; one source said it was Adderall. Welker denounced one rumor that indicated he took Molly at the Kentucky Derby, adding that perhaps someone laced his drink at the Derby. He said, “I wouldn’t have any idea where to get a Molly or what a Molly is. That’s a joke. I don’t do marijuana, I don’t do drugs.”
Broncos head coach John Fox stated, “Tonight’s news regarding Wes is very disappointing for our team, but we understand the league’s authority in this area. While it’s unfortunate to not have him to start the year, I have full confidence in our wide receivers and expect that group to continue playing at a high level. I have no doubt that Wes will remain focused on his preparations for the season and stay in excellent shape during his time away from the team.”
Welker emailed the Denver Post:
I’m as shocked as everyone at today’s news. I want to make one thing abundantly clear: I would NEVER knowingly take a substance to gain a competitive advantage in any way. Anyone who has ever played a down with me, lifted a weight with me, even eaten a meal with me, knows that I focus purely on what I put in my body and on the hard work I put in year round to perform at the highest levels year-in and year-out.
I want any youth football players and all sports fans to know, there are NO shortcuts to success, and nothing but hard work and studying, leads to success.
I have never been concerned with the league[‘]s performance enhancing or drug abuse policies because under no scenario would they ever apply to me, but I now know, that (drug-policy procedures) are clearly flawed, and I will do everything in my power to ensure they are corrected, so other individuals and teams aren’t negatively affected so rashly like this.
I have worked my whole life to be the best that I can be, and I have encountered many obstacles over my career, and THIS WILL BE NO DIFFERENT!
Thank you for the outpouring of support, and I want Bronco nation to know, that no one and no thing will get in the way of our goal as a team, to bring Mr. Bowlen the trophy he and this great region deserve.
Welker had appealed his suspension two weeks ago in Washington, D.C., but the league rejected his appeal. He had signed as a free agent with the Broncos in 2013 after six brilliant years in New England with the Patriots, averaging 112 catches per season. In 2013 with the Broncos he scored a career-best 10 touchdowns and caught 73 passes. In the playoffs, he caught 18 more passes, eight of them in the Super Bowl against Seattle. His 26 career Super Bowl receptions place him behind only Jerry Rice (33) and Andre Reed (27).
In the preseason August 23 game against Houston, Welker was hit hard by D.J. Swearinger, suffering a concussion, but returned to practice on Monday for a limited time.
Irsay’s sentence from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell came only hours after a court had sentenced Irsay to 60 days in the Hamilton County (Ind.) jail, although fifty-eight days of his sentence were suspended. Irsay was also given two days of credit because he had already served one day on March 17. He had been caught driving with hydrocodone and oxycodone in his system. His driving license was revoked for one year and he must undergo monthly drug testing.
Goodell made it clear he was addressing the rumored double standard for owners and players, writing Irsay, “I have stated on numerous occasions that owners, management personnel and coaches must be held to a higher standard than players. We discussed this during our meeting and you expressed your support for that view, volunteering that owners should be held to the highest standard.”