On Sunday, the Broncos could be without an anchor in the middle of the defense.
Middle linebacker Joe Mays was dealt a one-game suspension by the NFL for his hit on Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub during the team’s Week 3 loss.
“Joe’s one of the best human beings I know, and there’s no way he would maliciously go after a quarterback like that or hit him in the head on purpose,” defensive tackle Justin Bannan said. “You guys have got to realize how fast these things happen.”
Head Coach John Fox acknowledged on Wednesday that Mays will appeal the decision, but currently the linebacker is not allowed inside the team’s facility.
If Mays’ suspension is upheld, Denver will face a potent Raiders offense — highlighted by running back Darren McFadden, who has averaged 6.3 yards per carry in his career against the Broncos — without its starting Mike linebacker.
But Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen recognized that the Broncos will be prepared regardless of who lines up on Sunday.
“(Mays) will be somebody that they’ll miss, but I know Foxy’s philosophy is ‘Next Man Up,’ and they’ll have the next guy ready and up and available and ready to play,” Allen said on a conference call with Denver media. “Whoever steps in there for him, I would anticipate that they’d be fully prepared to do the job.”
Among the options to step in for Mays are linebackers Keith Brooking and Danny Trevathan.
“We’ve got options there, depending on whether (linebacker) Nate Irving’s available,” Fox said. “There are a lot of what-ifs. We don’t have all the answers yet.”
Teammates were upset about the possibility of losing Mays — who defensive tackle Mitch Unrein called “one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet” — to a suspension, but understood their role is to step up their play in his absence.
“It’s tough to lose a guy like that,” linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. “We have to roll with it. Right now we have some guys that are going to roll in. Whoever gets chosen to play that ‘Mike’ (linebacker position), we’re going to step up and be ready for it.”