ENGLEWOOD — When Brandon Marshall reports back to the Denver Broncos on Sept. 6, after his suspension, nobody knows what will happen.
Missing the final two preseason games should be a deterrent for further unbecoming behavior. Then again, not long after the Broncos warned Marshall on Wednesday he was in danger of being suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, he acted out at practice. He punted a ball instead of handing it to a ball boy. He was practically daring the Broncos to punish him.
The team brought him in Friday morning and told him he was suspended. Coach Josh McDaniels can’t know whether the Pro Bowl receiver will be more than a malcontent for the team the rest of the season.
“I didn’t say I was optimistic, I just said he’s coming back on Sept. 6 and we’ll see how it goes,” McDaniels said.
Players didn’t go out of their way to back Marshall. Tight end Daniel Graham said Marshall brought his punishment on himself. Receiver Brandon Stokley admitted Marshall’s actions offended him.
“It does, because we’re all trying to win games and you can’t have that,” Stokley said. “You can’t have those distractions and you can’t have somebody acting like that. We’re all out here working hard, trying to win games, and we want him to be a part of that.”
A bigger suspension might have been in order, but McDaniels said the league and the team prefers “an escalating discipline schedule.” If Marshall hasn’t changed his attitude when he comes back, a four-game suspension could follow.
The best-case scenario for the Broncos is Marshall realizes he probably won’t be traded and that losing game checks — he is scheduled to make about $2.2 million this season — isn’t worth acting out in practice. Still, he won’t play a preseason game and has barely practiced with the team all year, so it’s unclear how much he could contribute for the regular-season opener Sept. 13.
“He hasn’t really been around and he hasn’t helped us since the offseason, so nobody knows what they’re missing,” Stokley said.
Even though the Broncos seemed more than willing to move on without him, Marshall is one of their best players. He caught more than 100 passes each of his two years in Denver and made the Pro Bowl last season.
“When he’s focused and out here, he’s as good as it gets,” Stokley said “Hopefully in a couple weeks he’ll come to work and want to win games and help us out.”
Marshall gets to prove in a little less than two weeks if he wants to help the Broncos this year.
“We’ll play the season with him, or we’ll play the season ... you know, we’re going to play with the guys that are ready to play,” McDaniels said. “That’s what we’re going to do. If he’s one of them, great. If not, we have other players that will play and move on.”