Shaffer, Butler to Get More Reps

With the big right tackle out, Kevin Shaffer and Kelly Butler will see the bulk if the work. Meanwhile, Ryan Tucker gets no promises: his future with the club isn't assured at all...

Right tackle Ryan Tucker has been suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the regular season for using anabolic steroids. Tucker can practice and play in preseason games, but after that he will be banished from the training complex all of September.

Kevin Shaffer and Kelly Butler, along with Tucker, have worked at right tackle during training camp. Shaffer and Butler will get extended work now.
Tucker, 32, missed seven games in 2006 with what the organization described as a mental disorder. He missed the games against the Jets and Chargers. He returned and started the next three games. Seemingly, he was fine, but at halftime of a 30-0 loss to the Bengals he left the team and missed the last five games.

"I was pretty down and out last year," Tucker said remorsefully. "There was a point last year that I didn't know if I was going to play again. In my attempt to come back I took a banned substance.

"I didn't intend to compromise the integrity of the NFL or my team. I want to apologize to the fans and my family. My family is suffering more than anybody because people will make their own assumptions. Bottom line, I did take a banned substance and I'm suspended."

Tucker failed the steroid test during the offseason. Players can be tested at random in the offseason and when the NFL Advisor on anabolic steroids concludes a player may have violated the policy or may have a medical condition that warrants further monitoring.

Tucker said he learned in the offseason he would be suspended, but he did not receive the notice in writing from the league office until last week. The Browns learned Tucker would be suspended around the start of training camp.

"It's disappointing because we were counting on him," coach Romeo 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 made no promises Tucker will be reinstated when the suspension ends. Tucker will miss games against the Steelers, Bengals, Raiders and Ravens. During an interview in the offseason Crennel nodded when ask if it was fair to wonder whether Tucker could be depended on for 16 games, given the fact Tucker left the team twice last year.

"He won't be the same player because he will not have those four games," Crennel said. "That's why it's going to remain important that he maintains his conditioning. We'll get him to study film and all of that but it is not the same as lining up and going against guys on Sundays.

"At the end of his suspension we'll look at him and see where he is, see where we are and then make a determination."

For the first time since returning to the NFL the Browns have some depth at tackle. Shaffer started 16 games at left tackle last year. Butler started five games during Tucker's illness. The Browns signed him to a two-year contract in the offseason.

Drafting left tackle Joe Thomas with the third pick in the first round was the final and most important addition to the offensive line. As early as the second practice of training camp, Thomas was at left tackle and Shaffer at right tackle on the first offensive unit.

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