EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's policy on steroid use.
Edwards has been a starter for most of the season, but was replaced by Erasmus James for last Sunday's game against Detroit. Coach Brad Childress said that decision had nothing to do with Edwards' violation, which the coach learned of on Wednesday morning.
Childress said he was disappointed in Edwards and could not comment further because of the confidentiality surrounding the policy.
"It's disappointing, but there are policies in place and our players have to adhere to those policies," Childress said. "Every team goes through challenges as you go through the year. We've been through some of our own. It's an opportunity to have others step up."
The Associated Press left a message with Edwards' agent, Doug Hendrickson, seeking comment.
Edwards' suspension is effective immediately. He is eligible to return to the team after the Dec. 30 season finale against Denver and could play if the Vikings (6-6) make the playoffs.
The Vikings will turn to James, rookie Brian Robison and Jayme Mitchell to fill in during Edwards' absence. The Vikings have won three games in a row to rebound from a 2-5 start and play at San Francisco (3-9) on Sunday.
"I guess we're taking it about as good as a team can," Robison said. "We know things happen, and you just have to make sure that when things do happen, you just have to push through it and come together as a team and make sure we keep playing the way we're playing."
Edwards, in his second year out of Purdue, has been one of the Vikings' most consistent performers at defensive end. He is tied for second on the team with four sacks and also has 41 tackles, including five tackles for loss, and 22 quarterback hurries. He also scored a touchdown on a 9-yard fumble return in Week 2 against Detroit.
"A lot of us younger guys like Jayme and myself have to step in and make sure that there's no dropoff," said Robison, who leads the team with 4 1/2 sacks. "It's just like if Ray was there. That's what we're going to do this week."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press