Larry Webster, a key player in the Baltimore Ravens' second-ranked defense last season, has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL for violating the league's alcohol and substance abuse policy.
Webster started in all 16 games at defensive tackle and recorded a career-high 44 tackles and two sacks. He has been suspended twice before and could be suspended for more than a year if he loses an appeal.
"We're going to support whatever sanctions the league will levy," Ravens coach Brian Billick said Tuesday. "We have to let the process play itself out, as usual."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league would not comment. League policy prohibits the announcement of a suspension until after an appeal is heard.
Coming off his best season as a pro, Webster signed a three-year, $5 million deal with the Ravens in February. But the 31-year-old standout will almost certainly be released if his appeal fails.
"Once this has run its course, we will make a decision," Billick said.
Webster's backup is Lional Dalton, a third-year player who played in all 16 games last year and had 32 tackles. Baltimore is considering pursuing Seattle Seahawks unrestricted free agent Sam Adams.
It's been a tumultuous offseason for the Ravens, who also face the possibility of losing middle linebacker Ray Lewis. The team's leading tackler, Lewis has been charged with murder in the stabbing deaths of two men outside an Atlanta nightclub. He is to go to court next month.
Webster broke into the NFL in 1992 with the Miami Dolphins. He twice reportedly tested positive for marijuana while with the Dolphins. As a member of the Cleveland Browns was suspended for six games after testing positive during the 1995 season.
His last suspension was for the entire 1996 season. Webster said at the time that the sanction came after he drank a beer at his bachelor party. NFL rules prohibit drinking alcohol after one substance abuse violation.
Upon his return, Webster started only three games in 1997 and made just one start in 1998. Last season, however, he had 32 solo tackles on a defense that did not permit any runner to top the 100-yard mark.
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