In an article from September 18th, 2008 titled “The Bulldog of Bergen” (linked here) ex-USC and now Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll described a young Linebacker named Brian Cushing as an “animal” and a ”wild dog”. This was after Carroll and the USC National Advanced Scouting team attended many Bergen Catholic High School games in an attempt to lure the player to play for Southern Cal. Cushing came to the University with the reputation of being someone who would do anything to play instead of miss any playing time at all, let alone a game. He would lie to trainers, take painkillers during pregame warm-ups and quite possibly….take steroids.
Today, Brian Cushing was informed that the appeal he had filed for in defense of a league steroid policy violation was upheld. He was immediately issued a four game suspension and will be relegated to the sidelines for the beginning of the 2010 season and some very important games. Houston opens their season against the Colts, Cowboys, Redskins and Raiders. What’s worse, the Texans have already been labeled the league’s toughest regular season schedule.
In a video diary produced by NFL Network in 2009 (linked here) a solemn and humble Cushing discusses the challenges he will be facing at the NFL Combine. He states, “I am living my dream and I don’t want to do anything to ever screw it up.” He scored a 23 on his Wonderlic exam. The average person scores a 19 or 20. The Wonderlic determines how well you perform under pressure, how you react to certain situations and other mental and psychological attributes. The issue with Brian however wasn’t how he saw the game. It wasn’t even how he played the game. Brian always seemed to have some physical prowess over the next guy. He returned from injuries quicker than anyone the training staff had ever seen. This is not to say that the training staff wasn’t involved. This is merely the impression he left with people. Cushing carried a failed steroid exam and substance abuse accusations throughout the 2009 NFL Combine and NFL Draft. He successfully managed to become a first round draft pick and the winner of the 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Now, according to some pro football player Twitter accounts like Donte Whitners, Cushing should be stripped of his award and punished accordingly. There will be fallout in the Houston community and Brian will need to swallow his pride and look in the mirror. He will practice his speech a hundred times to make sure that when he says that he did not mean to “hurt” or “ruin” the image or the chemistry of his teammates that the crack in his voice is ever so slight. He will be apologetic and pathetic. I will feel for his family, the Texans organization and the city of Houston. I will not however feel for Mr. Cushing. At some point in our lives we make a decision as to what we will do for a living, how we will support ourselves and our families. I believe that money has kept some professionals from facing their fears and realizing that although you have made a choice to perform a certain job, you also need to live up to the level of sportsmanship, respectability and accountability that the dollar signs on your paycheck have afforded you. He is still a young man who will have plenty of time and opportunities to rebuild his image and rediscover the chemistry he left behind with his teammates. It’s a tough price to pay for being great. For a few, it comes naturally. For some it comes with hard work and dedication and for many it comes at the expense of someone else. You got yourself into this mess, now get yourself out.
So how exactly does someone go from the highest profile collegiate football program, through the NFL Combine, screenings, the NFL Draft, OTA’s, Training Camp and then an entire regular season and not get caught by the Texans training staff or the NFL? These are questions that we will all get answers to very shortly. At the moment there is no press conference information available and no statements issued from anyone in the Texans organization aside from the suspension. Cushing was on the USC campus attending classes according to many reports today but was never obtained for a comment. Please check back as we will be updating this story as information becomes available.
FANTASY SPIN – Take a gander at Zac Diles to fill in for Cushing. He put up decent fantasy numbers in 2008 when Demeco Ryans was out. Also Xavier Adibi is worth a look in deeper IDP leagues. Diles put up strong numbers when he played in place of the injured Ryans in 2008 and should benefit from Cushing’s lost playing time.