Maybe there is a plausible reason for Brian Cushing's failed steroid test.
He ran out of time to give it.
I waited for Cushing to publicly proclaim his innocence beyond a media-released statement. I needed to see and hear sincerity in Cushing's face and voice if I were to entertain the possibility of once again voting him the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. I had to believe Cushing was drug-free during the 2009 season.
I'm still waiting, but the Associated Press isn't. I submitted my ballot by the noon ET Wednesday deadline.
Cushing's name wasn't on it.
The physically imposing Houston Texans linebacker had almost five days to stand before the cameras and state his case after news of the failed test surfaced. Even though he was dealing with a family crisis, Cushing still had ample opportunity to detail why he would reportedly register positive for HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), a fertility drug commonly taken by steroid users to kick-start natural testosterone production at the end of a cycle.
This explanation was especially important considering how much Cushing has gotten dogged for allegedly using performance-enhancing drugs in the past. Cushing has vehemently denied those claims and never failed a prior test (at least to our knowledge) before the HCG red flag last September. Yet when you type his name into a Google search engine, these are two of the first three suggestions: Brian Cushing before and after (photos) and Brian Cushing steroids.
I hear nothing but rave reviews from those who know Cushing as a driven and loyal player and person. They would love to believe Cushing's muscles and 2009 success -- 133 tackles, four sacks and four interceptions -- came solely from hard work and natural athletic skill.
Right now, I can't take that leap of faith. It's the duck theory. If it looks like a duck and waddles like a duck, then -- quack, quack -- it's probably a duck.
Cushing is now the face of steroid use in the NFL just like Tony Mandarich and the late Lyle Alzado in previous generations. Whether he can erase that image depends on Cushing's subsequent actions and words. He can eventually move past this like Julius Peppers, another NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year who tested positive for a banned substance in 2002.
Cushing's attempt to clear his name should begin in earnest with a news conference by no later than Monday's Texans minicamp. That's too late for me to consider Cushing's mea culpa in my balloting.
I already voted for Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd.
More Cushing re-vote reaction Here are opinions on the re-vote from other AP voters in Fox Sports on why they did or didn't change their votes:
John Czarnecki: "It sounds like Cushing took a masking agent, and that can only mean that he was trying to hide a performance enhancer that was illegal. I'm not in the business of rewarding cheaters. Yes, he had a marvelous season on the field. I'm sure he can live with that. I decided to vote for Brian Orakpo, who had 11 sacks for the Redskins."
Adam Schein: "I originally voted for Brian Cushing. I was disgusted to learn he failed a test for PEDs in September, marring his great rookie season. I was even more disgusted to find out he tested positive for a masking agent for steroids. Upon getting an e-mail from the Associated Press learning there was a needed re-vote, I instantly voted for a totally clean ball player, Brian Orakpo. A player who fails a drug test for a performance enhancing drug shouldn't receive an award."