The NFL has suspended Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson without pay for the first four games of the 2015 regular season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.

As defined by league policy, Richardson was suspended for recreational drug use. The drug was marijuana, according to a league source.

"I apologize for letting down my family, teammates, this organization and the fans,'' Richardson said in a statement issued by the Jets. "However, words aren't enough. This is something that can only be addressed by how I handle myself from this point on. I don't want this to take away from what the team is trying to accomplish. While I won't be there at the start of the regular season, I will do whatever I can to support my teammates until I'm able to return to the field.''

Richardson will be eligible to return to the Jets' active roster on Oct. 5 after the previous day's game against Miami, according to an NFL spokesman. Under terms of league policy, Richardson remains eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games. He will miss games against the Browns, Colts, Eagles and Dolphins.

"This is disappointing for Sheldon and the team,'' coach Todd Bowles said in a statement. "We're going to support Sheldon and welcome him back upon his return.''

Richardson proclaimed himself the NFL's best player last season during an NFL Network segment that aired during the offseason. He led the Jets with eight sacks, but that was tied for only 26th in the NFL.

Although he was bypassed in the original Pro Bowl voting, Richardson was selected to the Pro Bowl after last season, and he also was named defensive rookie of the year for the 2013 season.

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Defensive line is regarded as the Jets' deepest position, especially after outstanding USC lineman Leonard Williams fell to them with the sixth overall pick in the draft. Richardson's early absence, however, might strengthen the negotiating position of restricted free agent defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, who is entering the fifth and final year of his rookie contract and is scheduled to make $6.96 million.

Richardson took to his Twitter account -- @Godforshort -- yesterday after the suspension was announced.

"I apologize for my mistake and for disappointing the people who mean everything to me,'' Richardson said. "I vow to you this will not happen again. My team will continue to push forward without me to start the season . . . I promise I will be there for them in every way that I can until I am able to return.''

With Kimberley A. Martin