Hours before Denver Broncos veterans were set to report to training camp, the NFL suspended Broncos defensive lineman Eyioma Uwazurike on Monday evening for violating the league’s policy on sports betting.
Uwazurike, a 2022 fourth-round pick out of Iowa State, will be suspended through July 24, 2024, according to the NFL. Uwazurike is the 10th player this year to be suspended by the league for a gambling-related violation. While it is unclear if the lineman placed any wagers on Broncos games, the NFL is suspending him indefinitely for betting on league games during the 2022-23 season.
Last season, Uwazurike recorded 15 tackles in eight games with the Broncos. With the departure of Shelby Harris in the offseason, Uwazurike was projected to start at defensive end and expected to move inside on running downs.
Mounting evidence of a suspension
As early as June, there were rumblings that a Broncos player was under investigation for violating the league’s gambling policy, multiple sources told Sports Handle at the time. The speculation intensified in July at The National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) 2023 Summer Meeting in Denver.
When asked by Sports Handle if regulators had been informed by an operator of a pattern of betting activity involving an NFL player, a high-level official from the Colorado Division of Gaming responded that he was not aware of the matter.
Eyioma Uwazurike is suspended for at least a calendar year.
The biggest competition on the Broncos' roster is at defensive line, where half of the jobs (or maybe more) are up for grabs.https://t.co/uOJSvTfgPb
— Henry Chisholm (@HenryChisholm) July 24, 2023
Rumors began to circulate in late June when the NFL suspended four players for gambling-related infractions, including Colts defensive back Isaiah Rodgers. Under NFL rules, players are not allowed to place a wager on any sport from from inside a league or club facility. The same rules apply for players who attempt to make a wager on a team bus or team plane or in a team hotel. NFL players are prohibited from wagering on league games altogether, even outside of the workplace.
Rodgers, who reportedly bet on a teammate to hit the over in a rushing prop, is among a handful of players who were sanctioned in the “second wave” of 2023 gambling suspensions by the league. Asked then if a “third wave” was imminent, an NFL spokesman declined comment. The first wave occurred in April when the NFL suspended four members of the Detroit Lions and Washington Commanders defensive lineman Shaka Toney. Initially, 10-15 players were under investigation for potential violations of the NFL’s gambling policy, industry sources told Sports Handle.
David Highhill of the #NFL spoke at #NCLGS' summer conf Fri, one day after Roger Goodell indicated that the league's policies on sports betting "will evolve." In prioritizing integrity, the NFL supports mandatory info sharing between regulators, leagues, and sportsbooks, he noted pic.twitter.com/9mVJitLD8c
— Matt Rybaltowski (@MattRybaltowski) July 14, 2023
In light of the recent suspensions, the NFL increased efforts to educate players on the consequences of violating the policy. League officials presented the integrity training program to more than a dozen teams in June, with plans to visit at least six others. Broncos coach Sean Payton told reporters that his club received a training packet from the league, which the team used to develop its own PowerPoint presentation.
“If you’re a teacher and half your class gets a D, you better look at yourself,” Payton told reporters last month. “It’s not the policy, but it’s the implementation, the understanding, and the educating of the policy.”
The Broncos said in a statement that the NFL informed the team of Uwazurike’s suspension earlier on Monday.
“Our organization fully cooperated with this investigation and takes matters pertaining to the integrity of the game very seriously,” the Broncos said in the statement.