Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2015 regular season, the NFL announced Thursday.
The reason: Richardson violated the league’s policy on substances of abuse, which differs from its policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Substances of abuse include recreational drugs like marijuana.
A league source confirmed Thursday to NJ Advance Media that Richardson did indeed test positive for marijuana. That was first reported by the New York Daily News.
Richardson’s most recent substance abuse violation was not his first, though it was the first time he had been publicly connected to a violation.
A four-game suspension from the NFL means a player has previously tested positive once, though a single positive test results in no suspension. A second violation by the player can trigger the four-game suspension, according to the league’s policy. And that’s what happened in Richardson’s case.
Richardson’s suspension is a huge blow for the Jets. He is a linchpin of their formidable defensive line, and one of their biggest stars.
Richardson is among the league’s top defensive linemen. He was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013. Last year, Pro Football Focus rated him second among 3-4 defensive ends, behind only Houston’s J.J. Watt.
Richardson will be eligible to return to the Jets’ active roster Oct. 5, following their Oct. 4 game against the Dolphins in London. The Jets have their bye week after the London trip.
Richardson’s return is scheduled to happen Oct. 18 against Washington, at MetLife Stadium. In addition to the London trip, Richardson will miss a home game against the Browns, a trip to Indianapolis, and a home game against the Eagles.
Richardson can still participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games.
His suspension announcement comes shortly after the NFL Network named him the league’s 55th-best player, in its annual list, which is voted on by current players.
“This is disappointing for Sheldon and the team,” Jets head coach Todd Bowles said, of the suspension, in a statement. “We’re going to support Sheldon and welcome him back upon his return. We will keep moving forward with our preparations for the upcoming season.”