Late this afternoon, Adam Schefter broke the story that Brian Cushing would miss the first four (4) games of the 2010 season for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Initial reaction on BRB can be found here; thanks to Kerns for getting the FanShot up so quickly.
When you learn your squad is losing its Pro Bowl SLB, who also doubles as the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year, because he purportedly violated the league's drug policy, you'd think your initial reaction would be shock, followed by disappointment. Unfortunately, for many Texans fans (including yours truly), my initial reaction was disappointment. Not shock. I'll explain why, as well as toss out another few thoughts, after the jump.
1. Leading up to the 2009 NFL Draft, there was talk that Brian Cushing used performance-enhancing substances and had even tested positive. Pictures surfaced that seemed to show two very different Brian Cushings, and many fans immediately screamed, "Steroids!" The report that set everyone off was later debunked, but the rumor and pictures remained, mutating at times into more general questions about Cushing's durability. If you paid attention to coverage of the 2009 NFL Draft, word that he tested positive shouldn't shock you. The words "Cushing" and "performance-enhancers" had been used in the same sentence before. Thus, this doesn't come as a complete shock. I'm disappointed, sure. But I'm not shocked.
2. After the 2009 NFL Draft, the whispers got much quieter. And once Cushing took the field as a Houston Texan and had about as impressive a rookie campaign as a linebacker could have, any remaining doubts were, if not eliminated, silenced. I'm as guilty as anyone in this regard. When the Texans selected Cushing, I was rather vocal about my disapproval of the pick, and part of my disgust was because of the link, rumored or not, to banned substances. Once the season came? I shut up and cheered. The question about his use of performance-enhancing drugs wasn't totally erased from my mind; I just didn't think about it. He'd never tested positive, I reasoned, and was innocent until proven guilty. Would I have been so impartial if Cushing wasn't a Houston Texan? Of course not. I rationalized it, so I forfeited the right to be outraged. You won't see me taking a holier-than-thou approach on this.
3. Schefter's report seems to indicate that Cushing, and presumably the Texans, knew about the positive test for some time. Schefter says Cushing appealed the test in February and learned today that the appeal was denied. We don't know exactly when he was tested or when the Texans learned the result, but the potential for suspension makes the team's selection of Darryl Sharpton in the fourth round much easier to explain now.
4. My guess is that the Texans will trot out a starting LB corps of Zac Diles/DeMeco Ryans/Kevin Bentley for the first four weeks of the 2010 season. Plugging Xavier Adibi in at WLB would make a whole lot of sense, but all signs point to Adibi being so deep in Kubes' doghouse that it probably won't happen.
5. From a season-long standpoint, right or wrong, Brian Cushing will be a popular whipping boy for fans and media if the Texans get off to a bad start. Even with Cushing in the starting lineup, an opening slate of Colts/@ Redskins/Cowboys/@ Raiders was nothing to sneeze at. Had Cushing been in the lineup, the Texans could have easily started poorly regardless. Now, however, any discussion of a crappy record over the first quarter of the season (and for the entire season, for that matter) will prominently feature Cushing's absence. He's going to get a large share of blame if the Texans drop more than two of those first four and/or if the team takes a step back in '10. His actions are going to have consequences beyond the suspension alone.
6. From Lance Zierlein's Twitter feed:
One league insider just told me cushing & roids were "common knowledge". If so, then the Texans dropped the ball from a scouting standpoint
If Cushing doesn't come back in full beastmode & if Texans drafted a player who doesn't resemble last year's player, someone loses their job
If texans knew Cushing was "dabbling" and still took him, then so be it. I've got my eyes on Patrick turner, c Matthews and Taylor mays
@HoustonDiehards yes. Friend in the league just asked me if I was sure this was his first positive test. Yikes
While I don't think Rick Smith and/or Gary Kubiak lose their jobs over this, it gives their critics one more bullet to put in the chamber.
7. It's natural to wonder whether Cushing will be the same player he was in 2009. His positive test initiated him into a fraternity that includes the likes of Shawne Merriman who, you might recall, was also the reigning DROY when he got busted. Merriman followed up his suspension with another year of inspired play, but he's tailed off since he shredded his knee in 2007. How will Cushing respond?
8. In closing...have the Houston Texans lost their Lattimer?