FOXBOROUGH — Patriots running back Brandon Bolden hasn’t played since Oct. 14, leaving the game at Seattle with a knee injury that has kept him off the practice and game fields ever since.
He won’t be able to return now until Dec. 3 at the earliest, even if his knee improves. Bolden, a rookie from Mississippi, was suspended four games by the NFL on Friday for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
The league announced the suspension, but would not specify which substance triggered the action.
Bolden is second on the team with 234 rushing yards, and his 5.4-yard average leads the Patriots. He’s added two touchdowns, providing his team a consistent pop in the backfield.
The suspension begins immediately, which means Bolden will miss games against the Bills (Sunday), Colts (Nov. 18), Jets (Nov. 22), and Dolphins (Dec. 2).
Bolden will be eligible to return to the team Dec. 3, and would next be able to play in the Dec. 10 game against the Texans.
Bolden, who has a base salary of $390,000 this season, stands to lose $97,500, because the suspension is without pay.
Undrafted out of Ole Miss, Bolden made the team with a strong training camp. He had his best game of the season in a 52-28 Week 4 win at Buffalo, rushing for a career-high 137 yards, the only time he’s topped 100 yards. He followed that with 14 carries for 54 yards the next week against the Broncos, and had rushed for 28 yards in the Seattle game when he got hurt.
Bolden’s been inactive the past two games, and didn’t practice at all this week.
The Patriots have won two straight games without Bolden, using Stevan Ridley at running back, plus reserves Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen.Michael Whitmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.