Panthers starting defensive end Charles Johnson has been suspended without pay for the team's next four games for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances.
The NFL announced the suspension Friday, two days before Carolina's showdown in New Orleans with sole possession of first place in the NFC South on the line.
Johnson's suspension begins immediately. He's eligible to return to the Panthers' active roster on Dec. 25.
Johnson released a statement through the team's website saying he accepts full responsibility. The linemen says he has "been recovering from back surgery, dealing with the daily grind of football and mistakenly thought this could help. It was an error in judgment."
It's the first time Johnson has been suspended in his 11 seasons with Carolina.
Julius Peppers will start in place of Johnson.
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