The Carolina Panthers will head into a pivotal NFC South battle against the New Orleans Saints without starting defensive end Charles Johnson.

The NFL announced Friday the pass rusher was suspended for four games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Johnson's suspension begins immediately. He will be eligible to return to the Panthers on Monday, December 25.

"I accept full responsibility," Johnson said in a statement. "I have been recovering from back surgery, dealing with the daily grind of football and mistakenly thought this could help. It was an error in judgement on my part.