Rookie of the Year out for PEDs
Brian Cushing suspended, Houston Texans' playoff hopes take a needle of doom
Brian Cushing put something illegal (at least under the NFL's rules) in his body, but the Houston Texans are the one who figure to feel the effects all season.
Cushing — last year's NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and one of the most popular Texans — has been suspended for the first four regular-season games of the upcoming 2010 season for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. And just like that, the Texans' chances of making the playoffs for the first time took another major blow.
It doesn't matter that the NFL let this story break on a Friday night (the best possible time to try and bury something unpleasant like steroids thoughts) rather than in a televised league-endorsed unveiling show. The end result is the same for what's quickly (and unquestionably) become the Bayou City's most popular sports team.
Even before Cushing let the franchise down, Gary Kubiak's team was already up against it — having been handed the most difficult schedule in the league by the NFL.
Now, Cushing — who wasted little time in establishing himself as a vital piece of an improved defense — is out for the first four games of that gauntlet, which happens to be the toughest stretch of the toughest schedule. When the Texans face the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning, the Washington Redskins and Donovan McNabb, the Dallas Cowboys and Tony Romo, and the Oakland Raiders and someone not named JaMarcus Russell, they will be without their playmaking linebacker.
That means that one of the Texans' best defensive players will miss games against three of the top five quarterbacks in the league — and a game against the league's most mismanaged franchise (sorry Al).
Even with Cushing, the Texans likely would have been satisfied to go 2-2 against that monster start. Now without him .... they staring at the real possibility of a 1-3 beginning, a near sure playoff death knoll.
All because Cushing failed a drug test. Forget any moral implications of taking a banned substance for a minute, the truth is that PED tests in major American pro sports are mostly intelligence tests. You largely have to be either pretty dumb, very careless or supremely arrogant (or some combination of all three) to get caught.
The NFL does not release which banned performance enhancing drug that a player tests positive for (expect Cushing to surface publicly soon and blame the positive on a "tainted supplement," the trendy PED excuse now almost universally favored by sports stars), The truth is that Cushing's been hounded by steroids rumors since at least his USC days.
If anyone should have been aware of the testing, it's Cushing.
He failed his test last year and appealed. Now that he's lost that appeal, the news becomes public — and the Texans' franchise takes the body blow.
“We were disappointed to learn that Brian has been suspended,” Texans GM Rick Smith said in a statement. "Brian is a productive member of our team, and this is a significant loss, but we have to be prepared to win without him.”
There's a big gap between "have to" and "will" win though — a hole about the size of a 6-foot-3, 260-pound tackling terror.