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The NFL has suspended Denver Broncos linebacker Kareem Jackson for four games for repeated violations of unnecessary roughness rules.
Jackson is appealing his suspension, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Jackson will forfeit $558,889 in salary if the four-game suspension is upheld on appeal.
Jackson was ejected from Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers for his sideline hit on Packers tight end Luke Musgrave in the fourth quarter. It was the second time this season that Jackson was ejected for an illegal hit.
“On the play in question, you delivered a hard hit to the head/neck area of a defenseless receiver when you had the time and space to avoid such contact,” vice president of football operations John Runyan wrote in a letter to Jackson. “You could have made contact with your opponent within the rules, but chose not to.”
Runyan noted that Jackson had multiple instances of player safety violations.
Entering Sunday’s game, Jackson had been fined four times this season for unnecessary roughness — a total of $89,670.
He was also ejected from a Week 2 loss to the Washington Commanders after a hit on tight end Logan Thomas.
If Jackson’s four-game suspension is upheld, he will miss games against the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns. He will be eligible to return to Denver’s active roster on Monday, November 27.
On Sunday, Musgrave caught an 18-yard pass from Jordan Love, and as linebacker Alex Singleton closed in, Jackson arrived and knocked Musgrave to the turf. Two flags were immediately thrown. After a brief discussion between the officials, referee Alex Kemp announced that Jackson had been ejected in addition to the 15-yard penalty.
Some Broncos players said they believed Jackson led with his shoulder and hit Musgrave just below the head and neck area. Green Bay players on the sideline near the field goal yelled at Jackson after the play as Packers coaches quickly stood between Jackson and the group.
“I know Kareem, I know his heart and I know the way he plays,” Broncos coach Sean Payton said Monday before the suspension was announced. “I think it’s easy to say, ‘Well he’s just an old man playing in a rookie game.'” When you see the play, his head is removed from the forced contact. Vulnerability is a bit more of an issue at the receiver position.
“I just know where he is as a player. We will continue to work on this. I know he will continue to work on it. He’s a guy who’s smart and really wants to do the right thing. It’s one of the hardest parts of our game for the officials, for the players, for all of us involved, to get it to where it’s clear and easy. Sometimes it just isn’t.”
Jackson’s suspension is the longest punishment for a player safety violation since 2019, when Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett was suspended indefinitely for hitting the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mason Rudolph with the quarterback’s helmet. Garrett ended up missing six games and was reinstated in February 2020. Also in 2019, Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict was suspended for the remainder of the season (12 games) for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Colts tight end Jack Doyle. The NFL cited Burfict’s repeated violations of the unnecessary roughness rules for the severity of the punishment.
ESPN’s Jeff Legwald contributed to this report.