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Free-agent safety T.J. McDonald suspended 8 games

LOS ANGELES -- Unrestricted free agent and former Los Angeles Rams safety T.J. McDonald has been suspended without pay for the first eight games of the 2017 regular season, his agent told ESPN on Wednesday.

McDonald, 26, violated the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.

In an e-mail to ESPN, agent Andrew Kessler, wrote: "It is very unfortunate that T.J. will miss the first eight games this season, but he and I are both looking forward to him returning to regular-season action when eligible."

The discipline stemmed from a May 2016 arrest in Woodland Hills, California. McDonald, a former collegiate star at Southern California, was suspected of driving under the influence of prescription drugs and pleaded no contest in January to one charge of "wet reckless" from that incident.

Under that wet reckless charge -- essentially a reduced form of DUI -- McDonald was sentenced to 36 months' probation. He also was ordered to serve 200 hours of community service, attend 18 Narcotics Anonymous classes, enroll in a one-month live-in residential drug program and pay a fine of about $1,900, as well as restitution to the owner of a parked car he struck during the incident.

The second-highest-ranked unsigned free agent in the ESPN 150, McDonald visited the Miami Dolphins -- his first free-agent visit -- on the same day he learned of his suspension, a source told ESPN's Field Yates.

An aggressive, ball-hawking strong safety, McDonald started all 53 of the games he played for the Rams during his four-year career, compiling four interceptions, 18 pass deflections, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, five sacks and 215 solo tackles. He was selected by the Rams in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft.

McDonald started every game in 2016 and was graded 58th among 89 qualified safeties by Pro Football Focus.

The Rams figured punishment from the NFL would eventually come down on McDonald but were going to move on anyway. Maurice Alexander is expected to transition to strong safety to replace McDonald, and slot corner Lamarcus Joyner has a strong chance of playing free safety when the Rams are in their base 3-4 set.