Jeff LegwaldESPN Senior Writer5 minutes of reading
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Denver Broncos safety Kareem Jackson has been suspended without pay for four games for repeated violations of player safety rules, the result of his first entry since returning from another suspension.
Jackson took off his helmet and hit Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joshua Dobbs less than two minutes into the Broncos’ 21-20 victory Sunday.
A 14-year veteran in his fifth season with the Broncos, Jackson was notified of his suspension Monday morning by NFL vice president of football operations John Runyan. Runyan said in the letter: “On the play in question, you lowered your head and delivered a forceful blow to the shoulder and head/neck area of an opponent when you had the time and space to avoid such contact. You may have made contact with your opponent within the rules, but you chose not to.’
Dobbs was a running back on the play when Vikings tight end TJ Hockenson picked off the snap under center and threw the ball to Dobbs, who ended up fumbling.
One of the NFL’s on-site health and safety monitors ordered Dobbs to undergo a concussion test after the game. Dobbs was cleared and reentered the game for Minnesota’s next offensive drive.
Jackson was not penalized on the play. Jackson, sources told ESPN early Monday evening, plans to appeal the suspension. He had a four-game suspension reduced to two games on appeal earlier this season.
Jackson will forfeit $559,889 in salary if the current four-game suspension is upheld. Jackson was fined four previous times this season for unnecessary roughness for a total of $89,670 and was ejected from two games.
He was suspended for four games after his hit on Green Bay Packers tight end Luke Musgrave in Week 7. After an appeal reduced the suspension to two games, he missed the Broncos’ Week 8 win over the Kansas City Chiefs as well as the team’s Week 10 beat the Buffalo Bills and lost $279,000 in base salary.
He played all 74 of the Broncos’ defensive snaps against the Vikings.
After the game, Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell was asked if he thought Jackson should have been penalized on the play.
“I felt that way on the field,” O’Connell said. “I’ll have to go back and look at it. It usually happens pretty quickly there, but right now, coming off the second level the way he did, it looked like a pretty direct helmet-to-helmet type of hit. But I’m sure [officials] I saw it differently in the play. They’re refereeing a fast game right there.”
Broncos coach Sean Payton said Monday morning, hours before the NFL announced the suspension, that he had spoken with Jackson and added that “there’s nothing you can do but wait and see where it goes.”
Dobbs said he “felt good” after the hit and advised O’Connell on whether Jackson should have been penalized.
“I didn’t get a chance to watch it,” Dobbs said after Sunday’s game. “That’s something I’ll look into. I have to take care of football. Third and 1, I’m trying to make a play, get a first down, keep us on the field, move the puck. I’ll let the coaches and everyone else decide those things with the officiating. But at the end of the day I have to take care of the football in this situation, especially to start the game.”
The Broncos are currently on a four-game winning streak and face two other teams hoping to stay in the playoff race — Cleveland and Houston — in the next two games. The Broncos then play the Chargers on Dec. 10 at SoFi Stadium and in Detroit on Dec. 16 or 17.
Jackson said last week that he spoke with league executives to seek “clarity” about the plays, including the plays for which he was penalized. After his earlier suspension, Jackson’s teammates were quick to defend him, especially safety Justin Simmons, who took exception to the league’s letter to Jackson last month notifying him of the suspension, as well as saying Jackson was a dirty player after the fines and ejections.
“Even referring to the letter that was sent to Kareem, which in so many words called him a dirty player, that bothers me as a teammate,” Simmons said at the time. “I wouldn’t be half the player I am if it wasn’t for Kareem, if it wasn’t for the knowledge he gave me, both on and off the pitch.
“The whole ‘dirty player’ analogy that we’re kind of trying to attach to his name and his reputation is, excuse my language, absolute bulls—.”
Simmons defended Jackson once again on social media Monday night following news of the suspension.
ESPN’s Kevin Seifert contributed to this report.