New England Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham has reportedly received a four-game suspension for violating the league policy on performance-enhancing drugs, according to ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss.
NFL announces Patriots DE Jermaine Cunningham has been suspended 4 games for violating NFL policy on performance enhancing substances.— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) November 26, 2012
There has been no word on which specific substance Cunningham used, but the four-game suspension is consistent with punishments doled out to other players who committed similar infractions.
The 24-year-old former Florida standout has recorded 23 tackles and 2.5 sacks through 11 games, including three starts. Cunningham isn't the flashiest player, but he’s been one of New England's most consistent players on the defensive line.
His suspension levels yet another blow to a team already without pass-rushing rookie stud Chandler Jones, who hasn’t played since the team's Week 11 matchup versus the Indianapolis Colts.
One of the knocks on New England over the past few years has been its inability to generate pressure on the opposing quarterback, thereby allowing too many big passing plays. The emergence of Cunningham and Jones in 2012 has been a blessing for the Patriots.
With nearly three quarters of the season already gone by, the team has jumped out to an impressive 8-3 record and has a stranglehold on the AFC East race. The Pats sit one game behind the Baltimore Ravens for the No. 2 seed and a first-round postseason bye, and are two games behind the conference-leading Houston Texans.
However, they have to watch out for the Denver Broncos, who also have an 8-3 record and a chance to overtake them down the stretch—especially if they are lacking prominent pieces of their defensive line.
We expect Cunningham to return to his significant role on defense as soon as he returns from serving his suspension. He should be eligible to play the season finale against the Miami Dolphins if everything goes to plan.