It has been reported by multiple people that Dallas Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain has been suspended for the first four games of the regular season. The NFL is announcing several suspensions today, including Sheldon Richardson of the Jets. The timing apparently has to do with the process involved, since the drug tests in question were probably from last season.
Announcement from the Cowboys: Rolando McClain suspended first four regular-season games for violating league's substance abuse policy.— Rob Phillips (@robphillips3) July 2, 2015
McClain was already facing a fine for the first four games of the season, so this would indicate that he had some additional issue that has caused the league to take further action. Unlike the domestic violence policy, the drug policy is well defined, and the league would not be expected to up the penalty without due cause.
There have been some undercurrents of problems with McClain. He had surgery on his knee just before the OTAs, elected to do his rehab in Alabama instead of Dallas, and several Dallas beat writers have been dropping what appeared to be veiled hints about problems with McClain. The investment in linebackers this offseason indicate that the Cowboys knew this was probably coming. Jasper Brinkley and Anthony Hitchens are the two top contenders for the starting middle linebacker spot, since the team indicates that they are committed to keeping Sean Lee on the outside.
This also puts the delay in getting McClain's contract this year into perspective. Now that the team has had the OTAs and minicamp to get some idea of what they have without him on the field, the team could even cut him entirely, since there is only $500K in dead money involved with him.
The outcome of the Greg Hardy appeal is still to be announced, but the Cowboys are now without two key defenders for the beginning of the season. However, unlike last year when there was a constant scramble to find bodies to put on the field, they knew this was coming and look to have the depth in place to handle it.