The Kansas City Chiefs and the NFL announced the suspension of right tackle Donald Stephenson for the first four games of the 2014 regular season because of violations of the league’s policies on performance enhancing drugs on Friday.
"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," Stephenson said in a statement Friday. "The rules are strict, and without a TUE, the consequence is a four-game suspension.
"I apologize to the Hunt family, John Dorsey, Coach [Andy] Reid and his staff, my teammates, and our awesome Chiefs fans. It is not a mistake I will ever make again."
For Chiefs fans, they can be forgiven if the image that flashed through their minds when they heard the news was the Titanic or maybe General George A. Custer’s last stand.
That is the feeling surrounding the state of the Chiefs offensive line these days – one that could turn another potential playoff team into one with a top-10 pick in next year’s draft. The Chiefs offensive line struggles this preseason has been evident to even the most casual football watcher.
Losing Stephenson is a blow for a team that already lost tackle Branden Albert and guards Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz during the offseason. Add in the struggles of last year’s #1 pick, tackle Jeff Fisher, to recover from off-season shoulder surgery and the jump from mid-major college to NFL-level competition, and many experts and fans are predicting doom and gloom for the Chiefs this year.
The leading candidates to replace Stephenson for the first four games are Ryan Harris and Jeff Linkenbach. Harris has played six NFL seasons with Denver and Houston with 39 career starts. He was signed by the Chiefs shortly before the start of training camp. Linkenbach was signed as a free agent in March after he played four seasons and made 27 starts for the Indianapolis Colts.
Stephenson is the second Chiefs starter who has been suspended by the league for at least one game this month. Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe was suspended for the Sept. 7 season-opener against the Tennessee Titans for violation of the league's substance-abuse policy stemming from his arrest last year for possession of marijuana.
The Chiefs play their third preseason game Saturday night at Arrowhead against former starting QB Matt Cassel and the Minnesota Vikings.
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