The Kansas City Chiefs' offensive line was dealt a major blow Friday as tackle Donald Stephenson has been suspended for the first four games of the 2014 regular season.
The organization released a statement on KCChiefs.com regarding the matter.
"This morning the NFL notified the team of Donald Stephenson's four-game suspension," the statement said. "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."
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the suspension relates to Stephenson violating the NFL's policy against performance-enhancing drugs:
The NFLPA also released a statement on the matter:
“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. 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 25-year-old Stephenson is listed as the Chiefs' starting right tackle on their official website, but they will have to find a replacement for the first month of the season.
As pointed out by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, Kansas City is lacking in terms of other options:
Stephenson is entering his third NFL season after being drafted by the Chiefs in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft. The Oklahoma product has 14 career starts under his belt, and he was supposed to take on an even bigger role in 2014.
One potential replacement is 29-year-old veteran Ryan Harris, who has 39 career starts with the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans. Kansas City also has J'Marcus Webb, who started all 32 games for the Chicago Bears in the 2011 and 2012 campaigns.
Either player could potentially provide adequate play over a short period of time, but neither measures up to Stephenson at this juncture.
A lot will be expected of the temporary right tackle in terms of blocking for running back Jamaal Charles and protecting quarterback Alex Smith. With such a big change needing to be made so close to the start of the season, the Chiefs' offensive rhythm could very well be disrupted.
Regardless of how Harris or Webb perform in Stephenson's stead, Chiefs fans will eagerly anticipate the conclusion of his suspension.
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