Sheldon Richardson, Rolando McClain, Antonio Gates suspended four games

Rolando McClain

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain stands on the sideline during a preseason game against the Denver Broncos in Arlington, Texas, on Aug. 28, 2014.

(Brandon Wade / Associated Press)

The NFL announced Thursday that New York Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and Dallas Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain have each been suspended four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Additionally, San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates will sit out four games after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

The players will be able to participate in training camp and OTAs with their respective teams, but will miss the first four games of the season.

“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. 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.”

McClain released a similar statement through the NFL Players Assn., apologizing for his actions.


“I apologize to my family, the Cowboys organization, my teammates and Cowboys fans for my mistake. I will not break the rules of my profession in the future, and I regret my error. I look forward to returning to the field on week 5, when I hope to help my team beat the Patriots.”

Richardson, 24, was the 2013 NFL defensive rookie of the year and had eight sacks last season with 64 tackles and one forced fumble in his second season. His absence could mean more time on the field for former USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams, who was selected with the No. 6 overall pick in the draft.

McClain, 25, came out of retirement last year to play for the Cowboys after Dallas lost starting linebacker Sean Lee to injury. McClain spent three seasons with the Oakland Raiders, who drafted him with the No. 8 overall pick in 2010, before he was cut by the team.

Lee is back but the Cowboys defense will also be without defensive end Greg Hardy, who will serve a 10-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the league. Hardy appealed his suspension in May, but an arbitrator has yet to rule in the case.


Gates, 35, admitted in a statement released by the Chargers that he had indeed tested positive for a banned substance.

“In my 12 years in the NFL, I have taken tremendous pride in upholding the integrity of the NFL shield and all that it entails, Gates said. “I have taken extreme care of my body with a holistic approach and never taken any substance that was illegal or banned by the NFL.

“In an effort to recover from a long season and although I was unaware at the time, I regret to confirm that I tested positive for a substance that is currently on the NFL banned substance list.” he continued. " As an NFL veteran and team leader, I should have done my due diligence to ensure that what I was taking for recovery was within the NFL guidelines. I have always believed that ignorance is no excuse when it comes to these issues, and I take full responsibility for my actions.”

Gates caught 89 passes for 821 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.

Follow Matt Wilhalme on Twitter @mattwilhalme

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