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Patriots' Rob Ninkovich facing four-game suspension

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The season is off to a bad start for Rob Ninkovich.

The reliable Patriots defender acknowledged Friday that he is facing a four-game suspension after testing positive for a banned substance. The league confirmed the punishment Friday afternoon.

Ninkovich expressed regret over the ban, which will keep the defensive end/outside linebacker out until the team's Week 5 game against the Browns.

"Few things are more important to me than my name and reputation. This might call that into question for some, which has me heartbroken," Ninkovich told Mike Reiss of ESPN. "I don't want to cut any corners. I want to do things the right way, with high integrity, and that's what I have always wanted to stand for."

Even without the suspension, the Patriots weren't counting on Ninkovich to make an early season impact. The 32-year-old veteran tore his triceps last month during a joint practice with the Saints and wasn't expected to return until October.

A versatile performer, Ninkovich led New England's front seven in snaps last season while notching 6.5 sacks and a career-high seven pass deflections. He boasts the third-longest streak of consecutive games played (102) among NFL defensive ends.

That streak is about to come to an end, though, something Ninkovich isn't happy about.

"Any supplement I've ever used was bought at a store. I was unaware something I bought had a substance in it that would give me a positive test because it wasn't listed (as an ingredient)," Ninkovich told ESPN.

"One thing I have learned is that if a supplement is not NSF certified there are no regulations that ensure that what is on the label is 100 percent accurate. That is a hard lesson for me to learn at this stage in my career, but I take responsibility for it. It's a mistake I made and it hurts that I won't be there for my teammates."

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