Matt Prater Suspended Four Games, Could Have Been The Whole Season

Broncos kicker Matt Prater negotiated a year-long suspension for an alcohol-related violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy into a four-game suspension. Prater has been in the league's alcohol program since he was charged with DUI and leaving the scene of a crash in August, 2011.

Prater's attorney, Harvey Steinberg, was able to talk the league down from the year-long suspension because he said his client had a "couple beers" while on vacation.

"No one feels worse about this than Matt Prater," Steinberg said. "He feels terribly for his teammates. It's cost him personally, both professionally and financially. I wonder if we shouldn't take a second look at the policy when only a couple beers were consumed at home while he was on vacation. Having said that, the NFL under the constraints of the policy couldn't have treated us better."

For any number of reasons, it is safe to assume that Prater was in at least Stage Two, possibly Stage Three, of the league's intervention program. He's been in the program since 2011 and, absent "unusual and compelling circumstances," the time in Step One is limited to a maximum of six months. At most, a player can be fined three game checks in Stage One. Suspensions are only available once a player advances to Stage Two with the max being six games. A one-year ban, like the one claimed here, is only available if the player is in Stage Three. One only advances to Stage Three from Stage Two by two positive tests, two instances of non-compliance, or one of each.

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The NFL's policy contains many provisions for how and why a player could be found in violation of the program. In Stage Two and beyond, the player is subjected to random drug testing. Obviously a positive test is suspendable, but tampering with specimens, or missing a test because you failed to inform the medical director you were going on vacation and they scheduled one without you knowing, for instance, will be treated as positive tests. Failure to comply with the testing procedure while in Stage three will result in a one-year ban.

The way the policy is written, there is also no way to suspend a player for one year if he hasn't already been suspended during his time in the program. So, it's unclear just how exactly Matt Prater went from looking at a one-year suspension and wound up with just four games.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Matt Prater to be suspended by NFL for first four games [Denver Post]