The Patriots are looking at going through the next four weeks without arguably their best defensive tackle.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Alan Branch has been suspended for four games after testing positive for marijuana. Branch will appeal the ban, per Schefter.
Branch tops the Patriots defensive tackle group in terms of playing time this season with 422 snaps. Second-year tackle Malcom Brown is second on the list with 417. Combined, the pair has seen the vast majority of work on the interior of the team's defensive line. Rookie defensive tackle Vincent Valentine has played in 131 snaps in seven games this season; he missed Weeks 5, 6 and 7 with a back issue.
Branch has one sack and 10 quarterback hurries this season, including four in Sunday's win over the 49ers.
Branch is in his 10th NFL season and his third with the Patriots. He was acquired by the team in October of 2014 after being released by the Bills before the start of that season following an arrest for driving under the influence.