Broncos punter Sauerbrun loses suspension appeal

Updated: July 27, 2006, 9:05 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Todd Sauerbrun says he's the victim of bad timing and his own foolishness.

The Denver Broncos' punter lost his appeal this week of his four-game suspension for using the banned dietary supplement ephedra in a misguided attempt to lose weight and gain gusto for his workouts.

Todd Sauerbrun

"I told him that I was very disappointed in him," coach Mike Shanahan said Thursday as the Broncos gathered for training camp. "We took a chance on him. Of all the things, ephedra! What it does is make you lose weight. He's the only guy on the team which I don't care if he's fat. I don't care if he's 30 pounds overweight. All you've got to do is punt the ball. Kick it into the end zone."

Sauerbrun, who was fined by his previous employer, the Carolina Panthers, for eating too much, worries about his weight all the time.

"Well, I care if I'm fat," said Sauerbrun, who packs 215 pounds on his beefy 5-foot-10 frame. "I always want to be in the best shape I can. ... And it kind of backfired on me."

The 12-year veteran said he knowingly took an over-the-counter weight loss product this summer that he strongly suspected contained ephedra, which the NFL banned after the death of Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Korey Stringer during training camp in 2001. Players are randomly tested and can be suspended after the first violation.

"I wanted to be up for my workout," Sauerbrun said. "It's not steroids. Every one of you guys probably had it at one time or another. And all it does is wake you up, get you ready for your workout. I just wanted to be in the best shape I could when I got here, and that's what they're getting me for."

Sauerbrun said he knew the supplement would leave his system within 36 hours. Trouble is, a member of the league's anti-doping squad knocked on his door at 8 a.m. the next day for a urine sample and he knew he was busted.

"It was just a bad timing thing and a bad decision," Sauerbrun said.

And he said he didn't realize he'd be suspended for a first-time offense: "That's pretty harsh if you ask me. It's not steroids."

Sauerbrun said he suspects, however, that the league is keeping a closer eye on him after his name came up in the steroid scandal in South Carolina last year: "Absolutely, I'm sure it all stems back to that."

Dr. James Shortt was sentenced this month to one year and one day in prison after admitting he conspired to illegally prescribe anabolic steroids and human growth hormone to NFL players. Federal prosecutors have said they have audio-taped conversations between Shortt and Sauerbrun as well as other Panthers players.

By the time reports linked him to Shortt, Carolina was looking to trade Sauerbrun after a series of on- and off-field distractions, including a drunken driving arrest and fines for being overweight.

Sauerbrun's acquisition last season helped the Broncos turn field position in their favor -- he averaged nearly 44 yards a punt -- and he was quickly welcomed in the locker room.

He said he feels bad for letting down the team, which will have to face St. Louis, Kansas City, New England and Baltimore in September without him.

"It completely [stinks]," Sauerbrun said. "This is just not cool. I'm going to not be around my guys in the locker room and that's what I cherish most of all. We've got a great bunch of guys around here and I'm going to miss that month. Other than that, I'm pretty sick about it."

Sauerbrun, who also kicks off, is allowed to attend training camp and can punt in the preseason. But he won't be allowed around the team during his suspension, which will cost him $328,000 of his $1.395 million salary next season.

It could also cost him a shot at a lucrative extension with the Broncos after this season.

Vying for the starting job during Sauerbrun's suspension will be second-year pro Paul Ernster, who tore a ligament in his right (kicking) knee last September when he was on the Broncos' practice squad, and free agent Micah Knorr, who played for Denver from 2002-04 and re-signed with the team on Thursday.

Sauerbrun said he especially regrets letting down Shanahan, who gave him a fresh start last year.

"I'm disgusted about it," he said. "The only thing I can say is it will never happen again. My goal here is not for things like this to happen. I want to help these guys, not hurt them."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press