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Von Miller’s $25,000 fine raises specter of suspension

Denver Broncos v Carolina Panthers

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 11: Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos watches the instant replay after sacking quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers during play at Bank of America Stadium on November 11, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Broncos won 36-14. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

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Broncos linebacker Von Miller is a candidate for the NFL’s defensive player of the year award. But if he’s not careful, he may soon be a candidate for a suspension as well.

The NFL has confirmed that Miller was fined $25,000 for striking Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman below the knee area last week. Miller, who was given a 15-yard penalty for that hit on Freeman, has now been fined enough times for illegal hits that he risks the NFL deciding that fines just aren’t getting the message through to him, and that suspensions are next.

Among Miller’s other fines: He was fined $21,000 for a hit on Cam Newton last month. He was fined $7,500 for a late hit against the Patriots in the playoffs in January. He was fined $25,000 for a hit on Mark Sanchez in November of 2011. And he was fined $15,000 for a hit on Carson Palmer in November of 2011.

That’s five fines in Miller’s last 24 games. The NFL has made clear that it will suspend repeat offenders if fines aren’t getting the point across, and Miller now appears to be a prime candidate for one of those suspensions.

The good news for Miller is that when the NFL fined Ravens safety Ed Reed for his third helmet-to-helmet hit of the last three seasons, Reed won his appeal. But that doesn’t mean the NFL is done handing out suspensions for repeated illegal hits. A suspension of Miller would be a huge blow to the Broncos, but if he keeps racking up fines, a suspension is coming.