Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham has been suspended for four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy on performing enhancement drugs, the league announced today.
This is a tough blow for both the Patriots and Jermaine Cunningham. Cunningham, in his third season, was enjoying a career year for the Patriots. In 11 games in 2012 (3 starts), Cunningham produced 23 tackles and 2.5 sacks, while also drawing numerous holding penalties, and playing more than 55% of the team’s total snaps.He has been the team’s first defensive linemen off the bench in sub-packages, playing both defensive end spots as well as defensive tackle on third downs, and also started in place of the injured Chandler Jones at left end Thursday against the Jets.
While we don’t know how long Jones will be out, the injury leaves the Patriots’ pass rushing corps very thin for the remainder of the regular season. Cunningham could choose to appeal the suspension, but my best guess is that he will choose to serve it starting immediately, as to not jeopardize his availability for the playoffs.
More analysis to come.