Shutdown Corner - NFL

According to several reports (including ours), 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year Brian Cushing(notes) has been suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. The Houston Texans linebacker was specifically suspended for the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Cushing's suspension was announced when he lost an appeal of a ruling that came down in February. The 15th overall selection in the 2009 draft, Cushing solidified a Houston front seven with major needs at linebacker to help star middle ‘backer DeMeco Ryans(notes). Cushing took Ryans' guidance and went from there, finishing his rookie campaign with 133 tackles, four sacks, four interceptions, and 10 passes defensed.

Unfortunately, all those numbers are now negated. I wrote about Cushing's play for Football Outsiders in late October, and I was tremendously impressed with what I saw. Now, I'm left to wonder - just as everyone else is - what exactly it is that I saw, and how much of it was chemically enhanced.

The rumblings about Cushing's steroid use predate his pro career - they began in a big way when a site called NFL Draft Bible published the following short report on April 2, 2009:

USC LB's Brian Cushing & Clay Matthews(notes) tested positive for steroids at the NFL Scouting Combine, according to various sources, including one NFL team.

It was later revealed (by Yahoo's Jason Cole) that neither Cushing nor Matthews tested positive at that time, leading to a great deal of invective directed at the instigators. But in truth, steroid rumors followed Cushing to the Combine itself, and he had to answer questions about them at the podium in the media room in February of that year.

"I'm not sure," he said at the time. "You know, I don't understand all that. You know, people want to say that all the time. But you can ask anyone I know. I'm the hardest working guy on the team, and people can just say whatever they want ... Anything like that with just a negative influence and people saying some things, it's a chip on your shoulder. So I go out and that's a little bit in the back of my mind to try and prove people wrong about that.

"You can ask my strength coach, you can ask my position coach, anyone that's ever grown up with me, been on my team, and they'll tell you what kind of person I am ... It's nothing I've been a part of, never I will be. But that's up to the people to decide, who wants to get me and who doesn't. You know, people can think what they want, but I'll tell them straight up that it's not true."

Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith released the following statement: "We were disappointed to learn that Brian has been suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season. Brian is a productive member of our team and this is a significant loss, but we have to be prepared to win without him."

Cushing will miss contests against the Indianapolis Colts, Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, and Oakland Raiders. Veteran Kevin Bentley(notes) is most likely to take Cushing's spot in the starting lineup.

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