Falcons' Lehr suspended for steroid policy violation

Updated: October 18, 2006, 12:52 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- An already troubled Atlanta Falcons offensive line lost starting guard Matt Lehr on Tuesday to a four-game suspension by the NFL for violating the league's steroid and related substances policy.

Matt Lehr
Lehr

Lehr is the first Atlanta player to be suspended due to an infraction of the policy since 2002, when cornerback Ray Buchanan drew a four-game suspension after he tested positive for anabolic steroids. Buchanan said a nutritional supplement containing ephedrine, a substance banned by the NFL, made him fail the test.

The NFL, in keeping with its steroid policy, did not reveal the type of substance found in Lehr's drug test. Because Lehr was suspended four games, it indicates this was his first failed test. A second failure carries an eight-game suspension and a third results in a one-year suspension.

Lehr, 27, will be eligible to return to the Falcons' active roster on Nov. 13.

"Obviously, we are disappointed, but the NFL's policies are very clear that all NFL players are responsible for what goes into their bodies -- regardless of the source," coach Jim Mora said in a statement. "We have options to replace Matt over the next four weeks that we are very comfortable with."

The Falcons lead the NFL in rushing yardage for the second straight season.

Despite that success running the ball, the Falcons have not scored a touchdown in their last 11 opportunities from inside the 20. Quarterback Michael Vick was sacked seven times in last week's loss to the New York Giants. The line has given up 18 sacks in five games.

Austin King, who started at guard in last season's final game when Lehr was held out with a calf injury, is the most experienced backup. Tyson Clabo, who has never started an NFL game, is the other top option, pending other roster moves.

The Falcons were considering making a roster move to replace Lehr on Tuesday night, according to team spokesman Reggie Roberts.

One option was to sign offensive tackle Bo Lacy from the practice squad. The team also was believed to be examining a list of available free agents.

The Falcons face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

The 6-foot-2, 304-pound Lehr plays on an offensive line known more for its quickness than its bulk.

The loss of Lehr comes as the Falcons' other starting guard, Kynan Forney, continues to recover from a separated right shoulder he suffered on Oct. 1. Lehr, a fifth-round draft choice by the Dallas Cowboys in 2001, started 15 games last season, his first with Atlanta.

Lehr, who is signed through 2007, has the option of appealing the suspension, during which he will not be paid. He would forfeit $198,820, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.