NEW YORK -- Jets running back Jesse Chatman was suspended without pay by the NFL on Saturday for the team's first four regular-season games for violating the league's steroids and related-substances policy.
Chatman, who signed with the Jets as a free agent in March, is eligible to rejoin the team Sept. 29, a day after New York's game against Arizona.
"It's always disappointing, but it's a program that the league has set up and something that I understand and Jesse understands the consequences of," coach Eric Mangini said. "Jesse has had a very good training camp and really punctuated it with his game against the Eagles. He's disappointed and so am I, but I look forward to him being able to come back and contribute."
Chatman's agent, Brett Tessler, said in a statement that the running back "never tested positive for a steroid or any other performance-enhancing drug."
"Near the end of last season, the league claimed he had a diuretic in his system that they said could also be used as a masking agent," Tessler said. "After Jesse spent great time and money defending his innocence, the league made its final ruling and now he has no choice but to look ahead to Week 5."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league would have no further comment regarding the suspension.
Chatman had 180 total yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown for the Jets in their 27-20 victory at Philadelphia on Thursday night. He ran 29 times for 93 yards and caught six passes for 87 yards, and led the team with 164 yards rushing in the preseason.
"I respect the program the league has in place and it's very clear that if there's a violation, there are consequences," Mangini said. "My experience with Jesse since he's been a New York Jet has been extremely positive. I think he's done everything we've asked him to do."
With Chatman sitting out four games, the only running backs on the team's roster after cutdowns Saturday were starter Thomas Jones and backup Leon Washington, along with fullback Tony Richardson. Mangini wouldn't say whether the team will look into bringing in another tailback during Chatman's absence.
"We'll gauge it week in and week out," he said. "Tony Richardson has run the ball in the past and (wide receiver) Brad Smith can be used back there as well, so we'll definitely have alternatives in place."
Mangini said Chatman will have a job waiting for him when he finishes serving the suspension.
"Had this not gone through, he would be on the 53-man roster," Mangini said. "In terms of evaluating him as a player and a contributor, I think he earned that spot from that perspective."
Out of football in 2006, Chatman ran for a career-high 515 yards and a touchdown for Miami last season. He became the Dolphins' starting running back after Ronnie Brown was sidelined for the season by a knee injury in Week 7.
The 5-foot-8, 220-pound Chatman spent his first three NFL seasons with San Diego from 2002-04, but was released by the Chargers in July 2005. He signed with the Dolphins before that season, but was traded to New Orleans after being inactive for the first five games. Chatman was then inactive for three games with the Saints before they also released him.
After sitting out a year and losing 60 pounds, Chatman was again signed by the Dolphins and revived his NFL career.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press