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Broncos need cure for summertime blues

8/24/2014

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos haven’t been all that thrilled with what summer has had to offer over the past 15 months or so.

First dial it back to last summer. The Broncos had two front office executives arrested for DUIs in separate incidents. Both were suspended by the team.

Then as 2013's training camp opened, news broke that linebacker Von Miller was going to be suspended for the first six games of the season because of a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. Miller then had a couple of other legal items pop up before camp was over from some traffic violations as well as a missed court date.

All in all, it was not the kind of summer the team’s decision-makers had hoped for. At one point, Broncos executive John Elway said, "We need to get ourselves into the season, deal with what's happened and get going." As they moved into the regular season and kicked their record-setting offense into gear, the tumultuous offseason got tossed into the ubiquitous “adversity" pile, the list of things the Broncos had to overcome to get to the Super Bowl.

And when training camp opened this time around, the Broncos (fingers-crossed) relished the relative peace and quiet surrounding their day-to-day activities. So much so that in early July cornerback Chris Harris said things looked fine on all fronts and that everybody had to “just stay in shape and stay out of news."

Well, it was good while it lasted for the Broncos. Saturday night they went from a smooth ride to a couple significant bumps along the way in the span of one football night.

First, wide receiver Wes Welker took a hit to the helmet from Houston Texans safety D.J. Swearinger with just nine seconds remaining in the first half. Welker suffered his third concussion since Nov. 17 and is once again under the guidelines of the league's concussion protocol.

Then, as Saturday night turned into Sunday morning, Broncos officials confirmed kicker Matt Prater, the league’s most accurate kicker last season as well as the guy who booted the record 64-yarder in 2013, faces a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

Prater had a DUI arrest during 2011's training camp that put him into the suspension stage of discipline this time around. The Broncos could let Prater kick in the preseason finale Thursday night in Dallas, but he won’t be with the team in the regular season until the Monday before the Week 6 game against the New York Jets.

From a football standpoint, Prater’s a proven, game-tested player at a position that can decide a game as the clock runs out. And with games against the Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs and Arizona Cardinals in their first four games -- all teams that won at least 10 games last season -- there is a good chance somebody is going to be asked to make a kick that matters for the Broncos.

So, as September creeps over the horizon, the Broncos are once again simply hoping for summer to be over.