Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing had a phenomenal rookie season as he posted impressive numbers across the board. Cushing ranked fifth in the NFL with 134 tackles added 5.0 sacks, 10 pass defended and four interceptions. Cushing – whose goal in life is apparently to look as much like Tim Riggins as possible – was then named to the Pro Bowl and won the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Award.
As we all now know, the 23-year-old USC product has been suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the 2010 season for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs. As more reports have surfaced about the positive test, more questions have been created.
According to sources, the positive test occurred in September. If that’s the case, why was Cushing not suspended earlier? Why does the NFL wait to levy its penalties? Is this a league-wide policy? If so, it’s a terrible one. Cheaters should be stopped as soon as possible, not when it’s convenient for the league to get around to it.
Steroid allegations have followed Cushing around for years, but those close to him or who had witnessed his health and workout regimen at USC would tell you there’s no way he was using performance enhancers. After the combine last year his most skeptical critics even said that if he had passed that test, he had to be clean because the combine’s test for performance enhancers is one of the toughest in the world.
So how long was Cushing using? Has it been years or did he get to the league, face a litany of nagging injuries (which dogged him all of last season) and use something for a boost?
Make no mistake, players in the NFL, unlike other sports, use performance enhancers to make themselves ready to play each week. It’s less about workouts and more about dulling the pain of nagging injuries to help them recover more quickly.
The biggest question that has yet to be answered is whether or not Cushing will lose his Rookie of the Year Award. Clearly, if he tested positive in September then we can assume that his rookie season was enhanced by illegal substances. So would the AP take back the award, or have a re-vote. The likely winner would be Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd, who finished second in the original vote.
No matter what, one thing is for sure, this will dog Cushing for the rest of his career. No matter how many tests he passes from now on, questions will always surround his on-field performance.
UPDATE: Apparently the AP has decided to re-vote for the award. It’s safe to say now that Cushing will lose it.