- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Washington Redskins left tackle Trent Williams, one of the team’s premier players and among the franchise’s faces, was suspended Tuesday for four games without pay for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

The team and league announced the suspension in a joint press release. Williams‘ suspension begins immediately. He will be eligible to return to the Redskins‘ active roster on Monday, Dec. 5 following the team’s Dec. 4 game against the Arizona Cardinals. The Redskins released a statement about Williams‘ suspension:

“Today, Trent Williams was suspended by the NFL under the terms of the Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse for the next four games We met with Trent today to discuss this unfortunate news. Per the terms of the Policy, Trent will be permitted to participate in team meetings and workout at the Redskins‘ facilities throughout this time. The Redskins are counting on Trent to help our team when he returns from suspension. Our focus will now turn to the Minnesota Vikings after our bye this upcoming weekend. Any questions related to this matter should be directed to the NFL or NFLPA.”

The NFL announcing the suspension means appeals have been heard and ruled on. Also, under NFL policy, missing a drug test can lead to a suspension the same as failing an administered test.

The suspension is Williams‘ second after he missed four games in 2011 for another violation. Then, Williams reportedly failed multiple drug tests because of marijuana use following the NFL lockout.

The news was a jolt at the start of the Redskins‘ bye week. Williams is a four-time Pro-Bowler who signed a five-year, $68 million contract in August of 2015 with $41.25 million guaranteed, making him the league’s highest-paid left tackle at the time. The contract symbolized two things: First was Williams‘ growth into a leader in the Redskins‘ locker room. Second, was a shift in recent focus for the Redskins. Washington had long been enamored with the flash of big-name signings. Giving Williams a large contract showed the team had moved its focus, at least in part, to retaining and paying talented in-house linemen.

Williams, 28, was selected fourth overall by Washington in the 2010 draft out of Oklahoma. He has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of the last four seasons. The suspension will cost him $1.68 million, based on his $6.75 million annual base salary.

It will also cause the Redskins to scramble for a month. Replacing Williams, clearly the team’s best offensive lineman, and one who played the vaunted “blind side” position, will be a challenge. In Week 3, when left guard Shawn Lauvao had to leave the game against the New York Giants, Ty Nsekhe was sent onto the field to play left tackle, sliding Williams inside to guard. Without Williams for the next four games, Nsekhe is the probable replacement, though, the Redskins do often work offensive linemen in multiple spots under line coach Bill Callahan.

The bye week allows Washington, 4-3-1, to start reworking its offensive line for two weeks before playing a game. The Redskins host the 5-2 Vikings on Nov. 13. Minnesota’s defense is No. 1 in the league in yards and points per game allowed. Williams will also miss games against Green Bay, at Dallas on Thanksgiving and at Arizona.

Williams had developed a reputation for playing no matter how much pain he felt. This season, he has been bothered by a sore right knee and sprained his left knee. Despite the injuries, he had not missed a game.

“I feel like I owe it to the franchise and to my teammates,” Williams said recently of playing hurt. “A lot of people depend on me to be out there. Obviously, the front office made a commitment to me contractually, so I feel like it’s my duty to play through those little nicks and bruises. Even if it’s just 80 percent of me, I feel like it’s my obligation to be out there. This is what I love to do. I want to leave a legacy more so than anything. You can’t do that by sitting on the sidelines. I always want to play.”

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