NFL suspends veteran Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson

CHARLOTTE, NC (Jourdan Rodrigue/CharlotteObserver) - Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy, the team announced on Friday.

Johnson's suspension begins immediately and he cannot return until the day after Carolina's game against Tampa Bay on Dec. 24.

Johnson, a veteran defensive end who underwent a microdiscectomy in the spring, released a statement through the team on Friday.

"I accept full responsibility," he said. "I have been recovering from back surgery, dealing with the daily grind of football and mistakenly thought this would help. It was an error in judgment on my part. We have a special group here I wanted to be a part of and felt an obligation to do my part by getting back as soon as possible.

"I have always prided myself on being a person who does things the right way through hard work, dedication and sacrifice. I want to apologize to my team, Mr. Richardson and Panthers fans for the mistake.

"Regretfully I have disappointed people but I promise to come back ready to redeem myself when the suspension is over."

Without Johnson, rookie undrafted free agent Bryan Cox Jr. may earn a spot in the defensive end rotation.