The Redskins now know exactly how long they will be without safety Brandon Meriweather.
Suspended two games by the NFL on Monday for two illegal hits in Sunday’s win over the Chicago Bears, Meriweather had that penalty reduced to one game on Wednesday by arbitrator Ted Cottrell, a former NFL coach, after an appeal.
Meriweather also will only be fined $70,588 instead of the expected $141,176 and can now play in the Nov. 3 home game against the San Diego Chargers. That’s the good news. The bad news? Washington is still down its best safety heading into a meeting with the Denver Broncos, the NFL’s top offense.
“Disappointed that [Meriweather] probably won’t be out there with us [in Denver],” said Redskins linebacker London Fletcher prior to the reduction in the suspension. “It’s unfortunate that the league felt like they needed to suspend him.”
The move is not unprecedented. Former Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed had a one-game suspension for an illegal hit reduced to a $50,000 fine on appeal last season and Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Dashon Golden had a one-game suspension trimmed to a $100,000 fine earlier this year.
The reduction was announced after Wednesday’s practice, which Meriweather didn’t participate in, and coach Mike Shanahan’s daily press conference. Meriweather was not made available to comment and was not seen in the Redskins’ locker room during a 45-minute window open to reporters prior to practice.
His absence against the Broncos is still significant. Denver leads the NFL is passing yards. It doesn’t help that safety Reed Doughty is uncertain to play thanks to a concussion suffered in the Chicago game. Doughty was on the field for practice on Wednesday, but was limited.
“I’m mentally preparing as much as I can to get ready for this football game,” Doughty said. “My body will let me know if ‘m able to play or not. I take it very seriously. I will only play this weekend if I’m capable of playing.”
That would leave the middle of the secondary in the hands of converted corner E.J. Biggers and inexperienced players Bacarri Rambo, a rookie who has been scratched the last two weeks, Jose Gumbs and Trenton Robinson, who was just signed last week after being cut by Philadelphia. Washington also re-signed Jordan Pugh, a safety it cut just last week.
“We’re preparing for what we’ve seen on film for Doughty and Meriweather to play,” Denver quarterback Peyton Manning said before successful was announced. “And then any changes to that you just try to adjust.”
Cottrell is jointly appointed and compensated by the NFL and NFL Players Association to hear and decide appeals for on-field player discipline.
Meriweather was suspended for two games without pay by NFL Vice President of Football Operations Merton Hanks for repeat violations this season of NFL safety rules prohibiting hits to the head and neck area of defenseless players, including two in Sunday’s Washington-Chicago Bears game.