NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The Jets just got themselves a big dose of adversity.
Sheldon Richardson, the team's top defensive lineman, will miss the first four games of the 2015 season for violating the NFL's Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse, the league announced Thursday.
"I apologize for letting down my family, teammates, this organization and the fans," Richardson said in a statement. "However, words aren't enough. This is something that can only be addressed by how I handle myself from this point on."
The 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowler last season, Richardson was expected to play an integral role in new head coach Todd Bowles' 3-4 defense. Though Richardson can participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games, he won't be eligible for regular season duty until Oct. 5, the day after the Jets play the Miami Dolphins in London.
"I don't want this to take away from what the team is trying to accomplish. While I won't be there at the start of the regular season, I will do whatever I can to support my teammates until I'm able to return to the field," Richardson said.
Bowles called the ban "disappointing," but added, "we're going to support Sheldon and welcome him back. We will keep moving forward with our preparations for the upcoming season."
The 13th pick in the 2013 draft out of Missouri, Richardson has quickly become a force against both the pass and the run, registering a combined 11.5 sacks and 144 tackles in his first two seasons.
Due to the suspension, the Jets will have to wait a while before fielding one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, with Richardson, end Muhammad Wilkerson, stud rookie end Leonard Williams and veteran tackle Damon Harrison.
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