The Houston Texans asked the NFL to reduce or rescind the four-game suspension given to star linebacker Brian Cushing on Monday, saying he has a unique medical condition stemming from something called overtrained athlete syndrome.
Cushing described the condition after Monday morning's practice. He said the syndrome can trigger hormonal spikes after breaks in training, explaining why he would have tested positive for a fertility drug last September — a drug he said he never took.
"I think that's the final diagnosis we came up with," he said, "and a lot of doctors have supported why this has happened."
Texans owner Bob McNair met with commissioner Roger Goodell in New York to plead his case. The league denied Cushing's appeal of the suspension in February.
"I did meet with Bob at his request," Goodell said Monday during a previously scheduled conference call with Texans season ticket holders. "I'm trying to get all the facts correct, so we make sure we are making the right decision."
Goodell said he's open-minded about reconsidering Cushing's case.
"As you know in the medical profession, there are rarely absolutes and there are varying opinions," he said. "We want to make sure we listen to all the experts and understand all the facts."
Cushing was suspended for the first four games this season after testing positive last year for HCG, a drug on the league's banned substance list. Cushing says he never took the drug, which can be used to restart testosterone production after a steroid cycle, and has no idea how it got into his body.
Cushing said months of tests show that he had a "unique" medical condition that led to the positive test.
"Every individual is genetically different," he said. "I had a unique situation where something like this occurred and we have the science to back it up. It's taken months. It's really beyond what we ever thought and it's beyond the regular medical doctor.
"We've gone in depth, and there has been a lot of money spent on the research," he said. "There have been a lot of interesting results that I think can help us."
Cushing said he could not offer details about what scientific evidence McNair was presenting. Tom Condon, Cushing's agent, did not answer e-mail and phone messages.
Cushing, Houston's first-round draft pick in 2009, had 133 tackles for the team last season to win The Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He retained the award after a revote following his suspension.
McNair repeatedly has said he believes Cushing, while also saying he supports the NFL's drug testing programs.
"I had a meeting with the league's medical staff and presented additional medical information about Brian Cushing," McNair said late Monday in a statement. "The doctors will review the information and we'll hear from them at a later date."
Cushing said he was told after he failed the test that HCG can get in your body by injection or because of tumors. McNair said on the first day of training camp that the Texans' main concern is for Cushing's health, and McNair said the linebacker has undergone every test the team has asked him to take.
"He has cooperated with us 100 percent," McNair said. "We've satisfied ourselves that there are no health issues, and also that there was no evidence at all that he's done anything at all that was not proper."
Cushing wasn't optimistic that Goodell will reduce his suspension.
"I've got 12 games I've got to get ready for," he said. "Whatever decision is made, I've got to respect the decision of the commissioner.
"I'm staying open-minded today, but I'm not getting my hopes up," he said. "It's been an up-and-down couple of months, where I haven't been really sure what to expect with anything."
Cushing didn't see any purpose in traveling with McNair to meet with Goodell in person.
"I have to be here for the team right now," he said. "This is out of my hands, with the data and the evidence that we have. There's nothing I'm going to say or prove that's going to help turn anything over."