Good thing revote came before Cushing spoke
Maybe there should be a revote of the revote.
Only this time Brian Cushing wouldn't stand a chance.
Not from any NFL voter who happened to tune into his bizarrely defiant press conference, certainly. Not from a writer who believes that Cushing should still be The Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year simply because everyone assumes many players in the NFL are juiced anyway.
Not even from a broadcaster who might want to give him bonus points for the most creative excuse ever from someone busted for a banned drug.
Who knew when they saw Cushing flying around the field last season making tackles for the Houston Texans that he was not sure he would even be alive for the next game?
"I played the whole season thinking this could not only be my last season, but my last year," Cushing said Thursday in Houston.
Sure, the 23-year-old linebacker looked like a perfect physical specimen. Overly perfect, if you go by the rumors that have dogged him since his days at USC.
If you believe Cushing, though, he never took a fertility drug that is on the NFL's banned substance list. Since the only other plausible explanation for HCG being in his body was that he had a tumor, well, he says he thought he did.
The problem is finding people who believe him.
"He didn't play like he had a tumor," said Dave Goldberg, longtime NFL writer for the AP who retired and now writes for AOL Fanhouse.
Indeed, the best move Cushing may have made was not saying a word until after the revote. Even then, half the voters who supported him the first time moved on to other candidates.
"Now that I've heard his explanation I'm even happier I didn't vote for Brian Cushing," said Alex Marvez of Foxsports.com, who switched to Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd on his second vote.
Cushing won again anyway, mostly because the rest of the field was fractured, and now joins another elite group — players who have won the award and tested positive for banned substances.
With Julius Peppers and Shawne Merriman given suspensions before him, Cushing is the third Defensive Rookie of the Year in the last eight years to be punished for performance-enhancing drugs.
And you thought the NFL was clean?
It's not, of course — is any sport? — though no one seems to mind much. Unlike baseball, where each positive steroid test brings another chorus of outrage, NFL suspensions are greeted mostly with yawns.
That changed some with Cushing, if only because of the revote. The panel decided he should keep the award, though had there been another rookie nearly as good, the result might have been different.
While 19 voters switched to other candidates, 17 stuck with Cushing for various reasons. They did so before he launched his tumor defense, and they did so for different reasons and with various degrees of enthusiasm.
"I don't like voting for these kind of guys," said Adam Teicher, who covers the Chiefs for the Kansas City Star. "But the fact is he was the best rookie four months ago, and he's the best rookie now."
That hasn't made some voters popular on the Internet, where they have been blasted for being everything from homers to hypocrites.
"The 17 of us who stuck together are being ripped apart," said Pete Prisco, senior NFL writer at CBSSports.com. "But sometimes we play the moral compass in the media too much. We're not the moral police. I voted him in that way, and I didn't want to change it."
There's no question the voters were put in a difficult position.
Don't forget, too, that the NFL allowed Cushing to play the entire season even though he took the test in September. There's nothing wrong with due process, but there is something wrong with a system that takes so long to hand down penalties.
So Cushing keeps his award, and becomes probably the most notorious winner ever. He can go on and play next year, even if his season will be cut by four games because of the suspension for HCG.
It may not be fair, but nothing has really been fair since players started using modern chemistry to get faster, bigger and stronger than their rivals. It's certainly not fair for the players who finished behind him in the voting and passed all their drug tests.
The other players should feel lucky, though.
Unlike Cushing, they don't have to play while worrying about tumors.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org