The NFL is continuing its July pattern of announcing suspension news on Fridays, with the Broncos confirming in a press release that defensive lineman Derek Wolfe has been suspended four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Wolfe offered a “most sincere apology” to the Broncos, his teammates, and fans for his violation.
“During the offseason I took a medication which is on the banned substance list,” Wolfe said in the statement. “The medication is not a substance which would enhance my on-field performance in any way and I genuinely was unaware that it was prohibited, but players are responsible for what is in their bodies. … I will certainly exercise far greater caution in the future and will seek advice relating to the permissibility of any and all medications.”
While Wolfe can practice with the team throughout training camp, and can play in the preseason, he’ll be ineligible to play in Denver’s first four regular season contests. That means he’ll miss the club’s games against the Ravens, Chiefs, Lions, and Vikings before returning for the Broncos’ Week 5 contest against the Raiders.
Wolfe, 25, has started 43 games at defensive end for the Broncos since being selected in the second round of the 2012 draft. Although he has seen his sack totals decrease from six in his rookie year to four in 2013 to just 1.5 in 2014, he remains a steady piece on the Denver defensive line. As Pro Football Focus’ data shows (subscription required), he played significantly better against the run than as a pass rusher in 2014.
With new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips taking over a Broncos defense that was previously headed by Jack Del Rio, Wolfe’s role on the defensive line may evolve a little this season. However, for at least the first four weeks of the regular season, the team will have to rely more heavily on defensive ends Malik Jackson and Vance Walker.
Wolfe is entering the final year of his contract with the Broncos, making him extension-eligible this offseason, and eligible to reach unrestricted free agency next March.