NFL suspends Broncos safety Kareem Jackson for four games after latest illegal hit

DENVER (AP) — The NFL on Monday suspended Denver Broncos safety Kareem Jackson for four games without pay following his latest illegal hit to the head that resulted in his second ejection of the season.

Jackson, who faces about $589,000 in lost wages, was flagged for unnecessary roughness and ejected for a high hit to Green Bay Packers tight end Luke Musgrave in the fourth quarter of Denver’s 19-17 victory Sunday.

That came just 24 hours after the league announced Jackson had been fined $43,709 for an unflagged hit on Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco in Denver's Week 6 loss at Kansas City.

That brought his season total to $89,670 in fines and he's facing yet another one for his hit on Musgrave.

Jackson was fined in each of the first three games of the season for unnecessary roughness for a total of $45,961.

Jon Runyan, the NFL’s vice president of football operations, issued the suspension Monday for violations of the league’s unnecessary roughness rules.

In a letter to Jackson, Runyan wrote, “you delivered a forceful blow to the head/neck area of a defenseless receiver, when you had the time and space to avoid such contact. You could have made contact with your opponent within the rules, yet you chose not to.”

Runyan noted Jackson’s multiple offenses for personal fouls this season for violating player safety-related rules.

Jackson also was ejected from Denver's 35-33 loss to Washington in Week 2 after he was flagged for an illegal hit on Commanders tight end Logan Thomas, which came a week after Jackson's illegal hit on Raiders receiver Jakobi Meyers. Both Meyers and Thomas were concussed on the plays.

Jackson, who signed a one-year, $2.515 million contract with the Broncos last spring to return for a 14th NFL season, lost his starting job to Caden Sterns in training camp. But Sterns suffered a knee injury on his second snap in the opener, and Jackson returned to the starting lineup.

PJ Locke, who replaced Jackson following the safety's disqualification, secured Denver's win over the Packers with a late interception, the first of his career.

Jackson will miss games against Kansas City, Buffalo, Minnesota and Cleveland before he's allowed to return to the team on Nov. 27 ahead of the Broncos' Week 13 game at Houston.

Before the suspension was announced, Broncos coach Sean Payton reiterated that he didn't believe Jackson was playing dirty or trying to hurt opponents.

He said he's sat on the NFL's competition committee for a number of years and "we're constantly trying to work with and educate the players. There are times when pad levels drop. I know Kareem, I know his heart and I know the way he’s played. I think it’s an easy narrative to say, ‘Well he’s just an old-timer playing in a new-timer’s game.’

“When you see the play, his head is removed from the forceable contact. Defenseless is a little bit more of an issue relative to the position the receiver’s in,” Payton added.

“I just know where he’s at as a player. We’ll keep working on that. I know he’ll keep working on it. He’s someone that’s smart and really wants to do the right thing.”

The Broncos (2-5) host the Chiefs (6-1) Sunday.