ASHBURN, Va. -- It was apparently too much to ask. The Washington Redskins just can't seem to get through a season without a major off-the-field distraction.
Players and coaches waited Monday for the NFL to formally announce that two of Washington's top offensive players -- tight end Fred Davis and left tackle Trent Williams -- will be suspended for the rest of the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy, a blow to coach Mike Shanahan's hopes to build a team with a reputation for high-character players.
"It's just something else that's kind of added to the Redskins drama," linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said.
Shanahan said he expected to hear something from the league office "within the next 24 hours" about Davis and Williams. He otherwise danced around many questions about the topic, citing NFL confidentially rules.
Davis and Williams are expected to be suspended for the Redskins' remaining four games, sources told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen.
According to the sources, Williams and Davis were two of 11 players that tested positive for recreational drugs shortly after the lockout ended this summer. As part of the settlement, the sources said, the other nine positive tests by unidentified players will be nullified.
Williams and Davis are considered repeat offenders, according to the sources, and would have faced one-year bans under normal circumstances.
"It is disappointing," Alexander said, "because everybody's aware of the rules and how the NFL carries out the drug policy."
Shanahan said Davis and Williams reported as usual to the training facility Monday and were watching film, presumably of Sunday's 34-19 loss to the New York Jets. Neither player appeared in the locker room during the period it was open to reporters.
Near their corner lockers was a reminder of how hard it is for a player to ignore the league's drug policy. A notice written on bright green paper attached to long snapper Nick Sundberg's locker read: "You have been randomly selected by the NFL drug testing program's medical adviser to complete a urine doping test today." The word "today" was underlined.
"It'll be tough. It's two guys that we count on a lot in the offense," receiver Jabar Gaffney said. "It would be hard to replace those guys, but we have to."
The suspensions would have major ramifications for each player as well as the team. Davis was becoming the offense's most reliable playmaker with 59 catches for 796 yards -- both team-highs. The 2008 second-round draft pick is due to become a free agent at the end of the season. This mistake will undoubtedly cost him millions because another positive test could cause him to be suspended for one year, a chance many teams -- including the Redskins -- might not want to take.
Tight end was Washington's strongest position entering the season, but Chris Cooley is done for the year with a left knee injury. Logan Paulsen has worked his way up from third string by default and will likely start the upcoming game against the New England Patriots.
Williams is an especially troubling case for Shanahan because the No. 4 overall pick in 2010 was the first player drafted by the coach in Washington. Williams is very mobile for an offensive lineman, but he's had growing pains adjusting to the NFL game and has yet to come close to the multi-Pro Bowl level one expects from a player chosen with such a lofty pick.
"They're both great guys," Alexander said. "Obviously this is going to create a different perception of them off the field. But I know these guys intimately, being in here every day with them. Both guys I love dearly, great teammates, and they go out there bust their butt every time they're on the field."
The Redskins (4-8) have lost seven of eight, but at least up to now they had appeared relatively well-behaved. Players were happy to report early in the season that they were becoming a boring team, a sharp contrast to the Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth distractions of 2010 and the many other sagas of recent years. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall's occasional outbursts and a highly criticized defamation suit filed by owner Dan Snyder were among the few bits of extra static in 2011.
While Shanahan wouldn't discuss the details concerning Davis or Williams, the coach reiterated his focus on finding and keeping high-character talent.
"We know to put your best football team together you need talented players," Shanahan said. "You also need players with high character. You can get to the playoffs with a lot of talented players, but to get to the Super Bowl, to be the top organization, you've got to have character.
"We'll make mistakes along the way, and it doesn't mean that we're going to just drop somebody because they make a mistake. But we're going to make sure they're made of the right stuff."
Information from ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen and The Associated Press contributed to this report.