Exactly one week after the Kansas City Chiefs heard Dwayne Bowe would be suspended for one game comes even worse news. The Chiefs starting right tackle Donald Stephenson has been suspended the first four games of the season for violating the NFL's policy on PEDs.
The NFL's statement reads:
Donald Stephenson of the Kansas City Chiefs has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2014 regular season for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances.
Stephenson will be eligible to return to the Chiefs' active roster on Tuesday, September 30 following the team's September 29 game against the New England Patriots.
Stephenson is eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games.
Donald Stephenson's statement (via his agent) indicates that he made a mistake on a medication he took.
"I'm extremely sorry that I failed to check with the NFL, NFLPA, or Chiefs medical team before I took a medication that requires a therapeutic use exemption. The rules are strict, and without a TUE, the consequence is a four game suspension. I apologize to the Hunt family, John Dorsey, Coach Reid and his staff, my teammates, and our awesome Chiefs fans. It is not a mistake I will ever make again. I will train extremely hard during my time away from the team, and I will be ready to contribute to my team's effort to win a Super Bowl as soon as I return."
Unfortunately for Stephenson and the Chiefs, the NFL's PED policy states that you're responsible for what's in your body. "Players are responsible for what is in their bodies, and a positive test result will not be excused because a player was unaware that he was taking a Prohibited Substance," the policy reads. Stephenson's situation isn't unique; it seems like every month there's another player who was suspended for unknowingly taking a banned substance.
I don't have to tell you how disastrous this is. Besides the obvious (Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles, Justin Houston, Stephenson is one of the players the Chiefs can least afford to lose. He is their best offensive tackle right now with left tackle Eric Fisher struggling. Ryan Harris, who was signed during training camp, looks like the Chiefs third tackle right now, although there's plenty to be decided. Jeff Linkenbach, Ryan McKee and J'Marcus Webb are also serious roster contenders for the first month of the season given this news. The Chiefs have also put guard Jeff Allen at tackle a little bit during training camp, and Andy Reid repeatedly says he wants the best five.
Stephenson will miss the following games: Titans, at Broncos, at Dolphins, Patriots.
Finally, the Chiefs statement reads:
This morning the NFL notified the team of Donald Stephenson's four-game suspension. Obviously losing Donald is disappointing, but we are in full compliance with the league's policy. We will have no further comment on the situation.