TONY DEJAK / AP Enlarge
BEREA, Ohio Desperate to resume his career, a down and out Ryan Tucker risked his football future by taking steroids.
He ll pay for it and so will the Browns.
Tucker, Cleveland s rock-solid right offensive tackle, was suspended yesterday for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL s policy on anabolic steroids and related substances.
Tucker admitted taking a banned substance, saying he did so while being treated for a mental disorder that limited him to nine games last season.
I didn t intend to compromise the integrity of the NFL, my team, a remorseful Tucker said following yesterday s morning practice. I want to apologize to the fans, my family. It s been a long road in which I was pretty down and out last year. In my attempt to come back I took a banned substance.
I m going to fulfill this punishment and get it behind me.
Tucker can practice with the Browns throughout training camp and the preseason. However, he cannot be with the team during his suspension, which begins Sept. 1 and runs through Oct. 1. He is not appealing the ban.
Browns coach Romeo Crennel said he would support Tucker, but characterized the suspension as disappointing.
We were counting on him, Crennel said. He s an integral part of that offensive line and created some depth and competition for us. When you lose a guy like that it definitely hurts.
Crennel also said releasing Tucker at the end of his suspension is an option.
That s always an option for any player we have, he said. Like I said, at the end of these four weeks we will see where he is, we ll see where we are, and then we ll do what is best for the Browns.
The 32-year-old Tucker, one of Cleveland s team leaders on the field and in the locker room, refused to divulge any details about what substance he took.
There was a point last year that I didn t know if I was going to play again, he said. Bottom line, I m healthy now. My family is healthy and happy. People are behind me here, and my family is behind me. That s really all I have.
Tucker will be out during a brutal stretch of games for the Browns, who went 4-12 last season and have had only one winning season since 1999.
Cleveland opens at home on Sept. 9 against the Pittsburgh Steelers and hosts Cincinnati the following week. The Browns travel to Oakland in Week 3 before playing the Baltimore Ravens at home on Sept. 30 the day before Tucker s suspension ends.
Tucker s suspension opens a sizable hole on Cleveland s rebuilt offensive line. Kevin Shaffer or Kelly Butler likely will move into Tucker s starting spot. Shaffer started at left tackle last season, but he was probably going to be replaced by Joe Thomas, one of Cleveland s first-round draft picks, who has looked good in camp.
The Browns upgraded their line in the offseason, signing free agents Eric Steinbach and Seth McKinney, re-signing center Hank Fraley, and using the No. 3 overall pick to take Thomas.
Tucker was placed on the reserve-nonfootball-illness list for the final eight games last season. At the time, the Browns said Tucker s disorder was one commonly experienced by the general population as well as by professional athletes.
BROWNS GETTING IMPATIENT: Brady Quinn fell in the NFL draft. Now he s falling out of favor with the Cleveland Browns.
The rookie quarterback s contract holdout dragged into its second week yesterday as Quinn missed his eighth day of training camp with no end in sight.
For now, he s in Arizona working out while negotiations continue.
Meanwhile, Browns general manager Phil Savage expressed disappointment at not being able to finalize a deal with agent Tom Condon. Savage said he talked briefly with Quinn s representatives yesterday, but didn t seem optimistic about a contract being completed anytime soon.
Quinn had been projected as a Top 10 pick, but when he slipped deeper into the first round, the Browns traded a 2008 first-round pick to Dallas and selected the former Notre Dame quarterback at No. 22.
The Browns don t think Quinn should be paid more money than the 22nd pick deserves. Their argument is that Quinn was taken where he was for a reason and that they shouldn t have to pay a premium for him.
If you re not going to rank the players one through 22, or one through 32, then there s no reason to have a draft, Savage said. We should just have free agency for college players. The draft is the structure that was set up so that there would be some order to it.
Fifty years from now when they look into the history books of the Cleveland Browns, it is going to say, Brady Quinn, 22nd pick of the first round.