(UPDATED at 8:04 p.m. Friday)
RICHMOND—The NFL on Friday suspended Redskins first-string defensive end Jarvis Jenkins four games for violating its policy against performance-enhancing drugs. It’s a significant blow to a defense that already is depleted at the end position.
Jenkins said his positive drug test was “an honest mistake” that resulted from ingesting a tainted over-the-counter supplement he purchased at a General Nutrition Corporation (GNC) store.
“All I know is that they say it’s something that women take for breast cancer, and in the past, guys take it for recovery for steroids or something like that,” he said after Friday’s practice.
Jenkins acknowledged the supplement’s packaging did not bear the label signifying pre-approval by the NSF, an international health organization that certifies supplements and has an agreement with the NFL and the players’ union.
“Any time a person has a suspension, it’s always a tough blow for your football team,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “Hopefully our players will learn that without the label of NSF, you can’t take any supplements because you never know what’s going to be in those supplements. So we’ll pay the price for it.”
Jenkins suggested the supplement might have been tainted during processing or packaging.
“I’ve been taking it since college, and you know, these companies never tell us what they’re testing in these machines that you’re taking these with, so obviously, something may have gotten mixed up,” he said. “I’m not making excuses, but it’s something that happened.”
A GNC spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment submitted after business hours Friday.
Players commonly take supplements that aren’t labeled pre-approved by the NSF, according to one Redskins player, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. Jenkins was asked why he did so.
“It was, just like I said, a simple mistake,” he said. “I figured it was cool. I read labels and it didn’t have anything on it. I looked up on it. It was a simple mistake.”
Jenkins is the eighth Redskins player since the start of 2011 to be suspended for violating one of the NFL’s two drug policies. He’s the fifth to be suspended for performance-enhancing substances.
Jenkins released a statement through the team when the suspension was first announced around 4 p.m. After practice, though, he sought out media to explain the situation, publicly apologize to the team and take responsibility.
“They tell me they do everything by the book, and like I said, it was a simple mistake,” Jenkins said. “But I accept my responsibilities like a man. I’m going to take my suspension. Obviously, I’m gonna let my team down and my defense, but I’m going to come back stronger for this.”
Jenkins already lost his appeal. He will miss the first four games of the regular season. He is eligible to return to the active roster in time for the Oct. 13 road game against the Dallas Cowboys.
His backup, Adam Carriker, is out at least four months after right quadriceps surgery on Thursday. Defensive ends Chris Baker and Kedric Golston are positioned to play more with the first string while Jenkins is out.
“We’ve got a bunch of competition,” Shanahan said. “We’re a lot deeper right now than we have been in the past. Obviously we needed that type of depth for situations like this. But hopefully we can stay healthy. We’re going to have some guys that are going to have to step up and play well, take advantage of this opportunity. I always look at it like a guy gets hurt in the last preseason game. He’s out. There’s nothing you can do about it, so you go on and have these guys step up and take advantage of it.”
Jenkins is permitted to practice with the Redskins until the 53-man roster is finalized on Aug. 31. On that day, he’s expected to join outside linebacker Rob Jackson on the reserve/suspended list. Jackson was suspended four games in March for violating the league’s drug policy.