The Arizona Cardinals opened the 2012 season with four straight wins (before losing 11 of their last 12). Getting off to a similar hot start in 2013 will be more difficult as inside linebacker Daryl Washington has been suspended by the National Football League for the first four games of the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Washington, a 2010 second-round pick out of TCU, has 319 tackles, 15 sacks and four interceptions in 47 games over his first three seasons in the league. In 2012, Washington led the Cardinals with 134 tackles, including 15 for a loss, with nine sacks and an interception while logging 97.96 percent of the Cardinals' defensive snaps. Washington's performance last season resulted in a second-team All-Pro nod and the third-year pro was added to the NFC's Pro Bowl roster, recording one tackle on special teams.
Prior to the start of the 2012 season, the Cardinals signed Washington, who had two seasons remaining on his rookie deal, to a four-year, $32 million contract extension. Under the extension, Washington was scheduled to earn $2.4 million in base salary in 2013. Washington's four-game suspension will cost him $564,706 in base salary.
Washington has taken full responsibility for his suspension.
"I was always taught that when you make a mistake, you admit it, learn from it and face whatever consequences there are," Washington said in a statement released by the Cardinals. "I take full responsibility and I understand that I let down my teammates, the organization and fans. I apologize for that and promise that no one will work harder to make up for it."
The Cardinals likely saw Washington's suspension coming for quite awhile.
According to a source with knowledge of Washington's extension, the original deal called for a $10 million option bonus that was to be exercised on or before the last day of the 2013 league year. The two sides tweaked the contract on March 12, 2013, pushing the $10 million option bonus to the 2014 season.
The Cardinals signed inside linebacker Jasper Brinkley to a two-year, $3.5 million contract on March 19, but will need to find a starting-caliber linebacker to pair with him at the start of the season. In-house options include Reggie Walker, Zack Nash and Colin Parker. The Cardinals could opt to re-sign Paris Lenon, or pursue outside options such as Brian Urlacher, Karlos Dansby, Takeo Spikes, Tim Dobbins and Brandon Siler,
"Adversity and dealing with it is part of the business but when it’s avoidable like this was, it’s particularly tough," Cardinals first-year head coach Bruce Arians said. "One of the biggest things we preach is accountability. Daryl knows that and our team knows that. We will deal with this and others will have to step up until he’s back. I’m confident they will."