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Ravens offensive lineman James Hurst suspended four games for violating NFL's drug policy

The Baltimore Sun — By Jonas Shaffer The Baltimore Sun

Feb. 14-- BALTIMORE-Ravens offensive lineman James Hurst has been suspended for the first four games of the 2020 regular season after violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances, the league announced Friday.

The NFL did not disclose the substance, but anabolic and androgenic steroids, stimulants, and human or animal growth hormones, as well as "related or similar substances," are banned under league policy. Masking agents and diuretics are also classified as prohibited substances.

Hurst is eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games. The swing tackle will be allowed to return to an active roster on the Monday after the team's fourth game.

Whether that will be in Baltimore is uncertain. Hurst played in all 16 games last season, starting two, but until Friday, he had a $5.3 million salary cap next season. The Ravens would save $2.75 million in cap space by releasing him, but with Hurst's unpaid suspension, his cap hit next year drops by over $1 million.

While the team is thin on backup tackles, the Ravens re-signed former first-round pick and longtime Cincinnati Bengals tackle Andre Smith to a contract extension last week. The team could also add a younger lineman through the draft in April.

Hurst dealt with a nerve problem in his back in 2018 that limited him for much of the season but was healthy last year. In late December, after a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in which Hurst started, coach John Harbaugh praised him for how hard he'd worked to regain his strength.

"James is a 100 percent worker," he said. "And having the back spasms and all that kind of stuff last year, it really takes that away. It's kind of a position where you have to have your back. You have to be strong. You have to have your legs. And it seemed like he went into the game and just didn't miss a beat. He played really well, protected Lamar (Jackson), was a good run blocker. Our offense really didn't lose anything with him out there, which is what you hope for."

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