TAMPA — For the second time in as many seasons, after climbing back in the playoff race, the Bucs have lost a key defensive player for using performance-enhancing drugs.
Cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah was suspended Tuesday for four games for a violation of the NFL's policy on PEDs. Adjei-Barimah, who has 22 tackles and two sacks this season, performs an important role as the Bucs' third defensive back on passing downs and plays about 60 percent of the defensive snaps.
A year ago, middle linebacker Kwon Alexander was suspended for the final four games. The Bucs went from a wild-card contender at 6-6 to losing all four.
The Bucs are 5-5 and one game behind the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South after Sunday's 19-17 upset at Kansas City.
Adjei-Barimah, 24, will be eligible to return for the final two games of the regular season.
"I take a lot of pride in the hard work and dedication that I put in all year in preparation for each season, and that is why this situation is so difficult for me personally," Adjei-Barimah said in a statement issued by the team. "As a member of this team, it is very disappointing to have to miss the next four games and not be out there battling with my teammates as we go down the stretch.
"I apologize to my family, the Bucs organization, my teammates, as well as the fans for this situation. I promise to stay focused and be ready for the last two games of the regular season."
The Bucs had to play most of Sunday's game without starting cornerback Brent Grimes, who was sidelined with a quad injury. However, coach Dirk Koetter said Monday that he didn't think the injury was serious.
If Grimes is able to play against Seattle on Sunday, the Bucs could keep rookie Vernon Hargreaves starting at the other outside cornerback spot and move veteran Alterraun Verner to Adjei-Barimah's nickel role.
Tampa Bay also is entering the toughest part of its schedule. After hosting the Seahawks, the Bucs play at San Diego (Dec. 4), home vs. New Orleans (Dec. 11) and at Dallas (Dec. 18).
The Bucs promoted former Florida State defensive back Javien Elliott from the practice squad. They also placed offensive lineman Ben Gottschalk on injured reserve with a knee injury.
AROUND THE LEAGUE: Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was back at work after a brief hospital stay. … The Rams waived cornerback Troy Hill three days after his arrest following a crash.
Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report, which used information from Times wires.