Last season, Matt Prater established himself as the best kicker in the league. He missed only one field goal, would kick them through easily from more than 50 yards away, and even broke a 43 year old record when he kicked in a 64 yard field goal. But this year, he will have to wait to help out the Broncos, since he will be suspended for the first four games of the season.
Prater was suspended after he violated the NFL substance abuse policy by consuming alcohol while he was in in the league’s
alcohol program. He didn’t go out and get wasted, he didn’t go out and jump into a canal (Pat MacAfee), but two beers were enough for the NFL to suspend him. The problem with this is the slew of players that are getting into trouble and serving less of a suspension for their first league penalty.
Prater wasn’t caught with steroids, he was drinking a couple beers. If you compare that to a player like Josh Gordon, who is on his third substance abuse suspension, only had a two game suspension last year on his second offense. This is Prater’s first suspension, even though he has had problems in the past. There are many other players that are missing time this season, such as Robert Mathis, Dwayne Bowe, Justin Blackmon, and LaVon Brazill. Dwayne Bowe is only serving a one game suspension The most controversial of all is Ray Rice, who is suspended the first two games for personal conduct violation. There was video of Rice pulling his unconscious fiance out of the elevator, and cops reported that they were fighting. How is drinking a couple beers worse than Rice‘s personal conduct violation? Whatever the case, there is no changing it.
The suspension will left the Broncos without a questionable kicker until Prater’s return, so they went out and got one. Mitch Ewald was a rookie from Indiana who didn’t have the leg to compete. They traded their seventh round pick next year to the Giants for Brandon McManus. McManus has not had much experience kicking in the NFL, only kicking three field goals in his career so far, but he was a good kicker at Temple. It is one thing to be able to hit field goals in practice, but when the pressue is on and the game is on your shoulders its very difficult, so we will see if McManus needs to be that guy during his four game stand. The conditions of the trade was that the Giants keep the pick if McManus stays the starter after Prater returns, which is very unlikely.
Prater has apologized to the fans and his teammates, and it was clearly effecting his performance against the Texans. He seemed off, not able to drive in with the confidence he had last year. There is no doubt that the Broncos will be happy to get him back when they take on the Jets October 12th.
And as far as suspension goes, there is nothing else to be done. Prater did mess up, he admitted it, and everyone moves on. Four games can be the difference between making the playoffs or not, but the point of a suspension is to show the player not to mess up again. Hopefully this will be the last time Prater needs to worry about it.