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NFL suspends OL Donald Stephenson four games

Aug 17, 2014; Charlotte, NC; Chiefs offensive lineman Donald Stephenson (79) blocks while running back Knile Davis (34) runs the ball at Bank of America Stadium. Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 17, 2014; Charlotte, NC; Chiefs offensive lineman Donald Stephenson (79) blocks while running back Knile Davis (34) runs the ball at Bank of America Stadium. Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs offensive line suffered a major blow Friday.

Starting right tackle Donald Stephenson has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances, the league announced.

The Chiefs acknowledged the suspension with a statement shortly after the league announcement.

“This morning the NFL notified the team of Donald Stephenson’s four-game suspension,” the team’s statement read. “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.”

Stephenson released a statement through the NFLPA.

“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 the statement. “The rules are strict, and without at 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.”

The Chiefs named Stephenson, a native of Blue Springs, Mo., the starter at right tackle during the offseason.

The 6-6, 312-pound Stephenson played the key role of swing tackle in 2013 with four starts at left tackle and three at right tackle.

Kansas City’s first-team offensive line is already under a microscope given its play through two preseason games.

But the four-game loss of Stephenson, who spent the offseason at the LeCharles Bentley O-Line Performance training center in Scottsdale, Ariz., his starting role, could prove devastating for a young offensive line.

The Chiefs tinkered with the first-team offense line during training camp in St. Joseph, Mo., and starting left guard Jeff Allen sometimes lined up at right tackle.

Backup guards Ricky Henry or Jeff Linkenbach, who can also play offensive tackle, would take Allen’s place at left guard during those instances.

The offensive tackles currently battling for roster spots include Ryan Harris, J’Marcus Webb, Otis Hudson and Ryan McKee, who suffered a knee injury in last week’s preseason game and hasn’t practiced this week.

Stephenson is eligible to return to the active roster on Sept. 30 after missing the games against the Tennessee Titans, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots.

The third-year pro can participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games before serving the four-game suspension.

Stephenson is the second player in the past seven days to face a suspension.

The league announced on Aug. 15 wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is suspended one game to start the season for violating the substance abuse policy.