TAMPA — LB Kwon Alexander's impressive rookie season is over unless the Bucs earn a playoff spot.
Alexander dropped his appeal of a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs and will begin serving immediately.
He would be eligible to participate if the Bucs (6-6) qualify for the postseason. Tampa Bay is a game behind Seattle for the final NFC wild card after Sunday's 23-19 win over Atlanta.
Alexander was informed by the league of the positive test several weeks ago, and after a 45-17 win at Philadelphia, he took responsibility for not checking with team trainers before taking an "energy drink" that he said he has consumed since high school.
"It's my fault. … I've never been in any trouble or anything," Alexander said. "It's very disappointing. I'm really disappointed in myself. All they kept saying is if you're about to drink something, ask somebody first. I'm very disappointed in myself and I hold myself accountable. … If I get suspended, I'm going to come back even stronger."
Alexander, a fourth-round pick from LSU, has started every game at middle linebacker and is second on the team with 93 tackles. He also has recorded three sacks and two interceptions.
The Bucs will replace Alexander with LBs Danny Lansanah or Bruce Carter, who missed Sunday's game with a concussion, or a combination of both.
"We have Bruce Carter, we have Danny Lansanah, our two players right now that have both played that position," said coach Lovie Smith, still not commenting on the suspension until the league officially notifies the team the appeal has been dropped. "We try to have a backup plan for every position on our team if injury or whatever causes a player not to be able to play."
ON THE MEND: Tampa Bay already is short-handed on defense. Against the Falcons, the Bucs were without all four of the defensive linemen who started the season. DT Gerald McCoy (hand), DE Jacquies Smith (hamstring) and DE George Johnson (calf) all missed Sunday's game. DT Clinton McDonald is on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle.
CB Jude Adjei-Barimah left the game with an elbow injury, and though it's not expected to be a long-term absence, Smith said former starter Johnthan Banks filled in well while getting most of the snaps after the injury.
"He did a good job," Smith said. "(Sunday), boom, a change where Jude went down and we needed (Banks) to step up, and he jumped right in there like you would expect him to do."
HONORED: Pro Football Hall of Fame LB Derrick Brooks was honored Monday at Booker T. Washington High in Pensacola in front of a crowd of 1,200 students and staff as part of the Hall's "Hometown Hall of Famer" campaign.
"You guys need to understand that my time here at Booker T. Washington taught me how to be great," Brooks told the students, according to a Hall release.
THIS AND THAT: The Bucs gave rookie WR Donteea Dye a look on kickoff returns Sunday, and he gained 18 yards on his lone return, but Smith reiterated that Bobby Rainey "is our returner." … WR Mike Evans picked up his fourth offensive pass interference penalty Sunday. Only one player in the NFL has been flagged for that more often: Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski, six times. … Sunday's game had an announced attendance of 58,221, but the actual attendance, per the Tampa Sports Authority, was 49,760, which is third-lowest of the six actual attendances this season.
Contact Greg Auman at email@example.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.