Brian Cushing, the defensive rookie of the year tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. To most it’s just another player who is now labeled a cheater, but being a diehard Texans fan, this one stings on so many levels. He made more than an impact on defense; he created a new mentality shrouded in toughness. But now, that’s all falling apart before his eyes. I really don’t want to get into the back-story, but to get people to try to relate to how I feel, I think it’s necessary.
For those unaware, Brian Cushing has always been a top football player. He was the New Jersey player of the year in high school, an all-American, and was recruited by all the top programs (USC, Florida, Notre Dame to name a few). Brian Belichick was even quoted in an Sports Illustrated that he had been paying attention to Cushing during college. During his time at USC, Cushing didn’t slow down. He ended up an All-American again and was MVP of the Rose Bowl as well. He was the leader of a defense that has sent wave after wave of talented players to the NFL. PEDs never were really mentioned Cushing until the draft circuit took effect (combine, pro days, etc). There were questions surrounding Cushing because of some pictures that circulated showing him fat/flabby and the other where he was jacked like Rambo. Teammate Clay Matthews was also questioned because of how much muscle mass he gained, but neither tested positive for anything during the arduous draft process and it was placed on the backburner. In fact, Cushing and Matthews had a civil suit pending with the website that posted the once false information.
Once Cushing found his way on an NFL team, he never looked back. While many picks in round 1 tend to be nervous or unsure of how they’ll do in the NFL, Cushing knew his fate. In fact he embraced the expectations and even said it was expected that he starts because that’s what you draft 1st round players to do. Despite missing all of the preseason games due to injury, he stepped in as the starter and made an immediate impact. While many questioned if he was a 3 down LB, he proved it and then some. He picked off Peyton Manning, sealed the game in Buffalo, and helped get some crucial wins as Houston made their first actual run at the playoffs. He was the defensive rookie of the month, defensive rookie of the year, and 1st team all pro, and earned every one of those awards.
What kills me about this positive test is the hard work and commitment Cushing has made to being a consummate professional. When he was getting ready for the draft, he hired a professional chef to make sure his caloric intake was exactly what his body needed for his workouts. Recently, he started doing MMA training with Jay Glazer and Hall-of-Famer Chuck Lidell. He played through multiple injuries and was a critical cog to Houston’s defense getting to the point it did. Without him, I don’t think Houston’s defense would have been even close to where it finished. He’s always put in the time in film and on the field to be a top LB in the NFL and it pains me to see all that taken away from him. True, he did bring this upon himself by testing positive (although substance still yet to be named), but he’s far from the first person to do so. Now that he’s fallen down, he needs to pick himself right back up.
I have no doubt in my mind that Cushing can bounce back and perform like he did last season. PED’s didn’t help him read QBs to get INTs, they didn’t help him read pulling O on traps, and they didn’t give him the natural talent he has as a pure football player. However, I’m not the one he has to prove this to. It’s to everyone who thinks that Cushing is nothing without PEDs and the people that think he’s nothing but a cheater. He also has to make it up to his teammates who are counting on him this season. This is the year Houston tries to make a run at the playoffs and Cushing needs to be on the field. He needs to put this behind him and show why he was an all pro last season.