New York Jets star Sheldon Richardson and San Diego’s Antonio Gates have each been suspended for the first four games of the NFL season for violating the league’s policy on drugs.
Richardson was charged with violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, and Gates with performance-enhancing drug violations. Both will miss the first four games of next season, but can return on October 5, after the Jets’ game with the Dolphins and the Chargers’ clash against the Browns.
Defensive lineman Richardson said in a statement: “I apologize for letting down my family, team-mates, this organization and the fans. However, words aren’t enough. This is something that can only be addressed by how I handle myself from this point on.
“I don’t want this to take away from what the team is trying to accomplish. While I won’t be there at the start of the regular season, I will do whatever I can to support my teammates until I’m able to return to the field.”
Both players’ suspensions begin from the first week of the regular season, so the pair are eligible to practice and play with the Jets and the Chargers during preseason.
Gates said: “I regret to confirm that I tested positive for a substance that is currently on the NFL banned substance list. As an NFL veteran and team leader, I should have done my due diligence to ensure that what I was taking for recovery was within the NFL guidelines. I have always believed that ignorance is no excuse when it comes to these issues, and I take full responsibility for my actions.
“I’d like to express my sincere apologies to the Chargers, my teammates, coaches, fans and the league who have always supported me and expected and gotten nothing but the highest level of integrity from me.”
The Jets coach Todd Bowles said Richardson’s ban was “disappointing for Sheldon and the team.”
“We’re going to support Sheldon and welcome him back upon his return,” Bowles said in a statement. “We will keep moving forward with our preparations for the upcoming season.”
The Chargers said of Gates: “We are tremendously disappointed for our team and our fans as well as Antonio, but no more disappointed than Antonio is with himself. Antonio is a member of the Chargers’ family and we will continue to support him 100%. We have the utmost confidence he will stay in excellent shape for the season and be ready to go when he returns in week five.”
Richardson 24, was named the 2013 defensive rookie of the year, and notched up 11.5 sacks in his first two NFL seasons.
The Jets will lose something in Richardson’s absence, but they should be able to compensate, with Leonard Williams added to a tough defensive line featuring Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison.
Gates, a 12-year NFL veteran, finished with 12 touchdown receptions last season, tying him with Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots and Julius Thomas of the Denver Broncos for the most by a tight end.
This article was written by Guardian sport, for theguardian.com on Thursday 2nd July 2015 22.03 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010