Houston linebacker suspended for violating drug policy

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Brian Cushing, the defensive rookie of the year, was suspended four games for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances, dealing a blow to the Houston Texans' defense.

Cushing, who will begin the suspension on September 4, can still participate in pre-season practices and games, the Texans said on their website (http://www.houstontexans.com/).

"Brian is a productive member of our team and this is a significant loss, but we have to be prepared to win without him," Texans general manager Rick Smith said of Cushing's absence for games against Indianapolis, Washington, Dallas and Oakland.

The linebacker, a first-round pick by Houston in the 2009 draft, made 133 tackles, four sacks and four interceptions last season.

(Writing by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)