- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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DENVER -- Denver Broncos safety T.J. Ward was notified Thursday he will be suspended for the regular-season opener against the Baltimore Ravens for a violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy that occurred almost 16 months ago.
And that didn’t sit well with Ward.
“I feel it's really unfair,’’ Ward said following the Broncos’ 22-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in the preseason finale. “I'm getting punished for being accused of doing something, not doing something but being accused and I've got to pay the consequences for it. And I just don't feel the whole process is very fair.’’
Ward’s suspension is the result of May 2014 incident when Ward had been charged with misdemeanor assault and disturbing the peace after being accused of throwing a glass mug at a bartender in a Denver strip club. In August 2014, Ward was ordered to perform four hours of community service before Oct. 31, 2014, and the prosecutors agreed to drop the misdemeanor charges.
Ward signed a four-year, $22.5 million contract with the Broncos before the 2014 season as part of the team’s haul in free agency that year that also included DeMarcus Ware, Emmanuel Sanders and Aqib Talib. All four players were named to the Pro Bowl following the season.
Asked why it took so long for the league to make a decision, Ward said, “Maybe they were busy with Tom Brady and that federal hearing.
“It was some communication error with the initial notice of the (potential) suspension and that’s why I had to do an appeal so late,’’ Ward said. “The appeal was a couple of weeks ago and they just let me know (Thursday).’’
Ward was excused from a training camp practice last month to go through his appeal.
Ward had 74 tackles last season for the Broncos with two sacks and two interceptions. He was one of two players -- former Broncos safety Rahim Moore was the other -- to top 1,000 snaps last season. Ward was second to Moore with 1,003 snaps even though Ward was held out of the regular-season finale against the Oakland Raiders.
“I was very shocked when I first heard there may be a suspension because the incident happened a year ago. I've played a full season and now it's the following season. So I was very shocked.’’
Ward and defensive end Derek Wolfe, both defensive starters, will open the season on reserve/suspended. Wolfe was suspended for the first four games of the season for a violation of the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Both Wolfe and Ward were held out of Thursday night’s game with the rest of the team’s starters.
“It's news when I came over to the stadium today, you don't like starting the afternoon that way,’’ Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. “It's disappointing, but he's accepted responsibility for it. Obviously, he's a tough player to lose. But we understand our situation with him. We understand our situation with Derek. And we've got to have guys step in and our chin up and ready to go opening week.’’
2hEric D. Williams