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Daryl Washington reinstated on a conditional basis

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Daryl Washington is free to pursue football again.

The NFL on Tuesday notified the Arizona Cardinals linebacker that he has been reinstated on a conditional basis.

Washington has been suspended without pay since May 2014 for violating the league's Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. His ban was tied to a marijuana violation, which Washington sought counseling for.

"I'm honored and humbled to be back in the National Football League," Washington said in a statement obtained by NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. "These last 3 years have been the most difficult of my life without the game I love so much. That said, I've used this time to make tremendous strides as a man and have grown into a proud husband, father, and contributing member of my community.

"Physically I'm in the best shape of my life and have maintained a strenuous 6-day per week workout plan for over a year in anticipation of this day and next season. I understand the physical and mental demands that it takes to be an All-Pro linebacker in this League, and I fully intend to play at that level this season."

"Lastly, I'd like to thank Commissioner Goodell and his staff who I've met with multiple times, my attorney Daniel Moskowitz for all of his work on my journey back, my amazing teammates who I've stayed in contact with, and most importantly, my family for all of their unconditional support. As I told Mr. Goodell, I will use this opportunity to help lead and mentor younger guys in the locker room and in my community to learn from my mistakes and understand it's an honor to be in the NFL."

The 30-year-old linebacker may join the Cardinals at their training facility and participate in meetings, conditioning work and similar activities, the NFL announced. If the team chooses to keep him, Washington will be permitted to participate in all preseason activities, including practices and games, once "arrangements have been confirmed regarding (his) clinical resources in Phoenix."

The NFL would then review Washington's progress before green-lighting him for the regular season.

"Considering we have been prohibited from having any contact with him over the last three years, it would be premature today to discuss a potential return to the team," the Cardinals said in a statement, noting that Washington's status will be addressed after the draft.

Washington hasn't played since 2013. In addition to multiple suspensions for substance-related issues, he also served a one-year probation in 2014 for assaulting a former girlfriend.

On the field -- and it feels like lifetimes ago -- Washington was a fantastic asset for the Cardinals, emerging as a game-changing inside linebacker who thrived in pass coverage and wreaked havoc as a pass rusher.

Some believed Washington might never be reinstated, making this one of the more surprising league decisions of the offseason.

Still, it's no guarantee the Cardinals want to work with Washington after general manager Steve Keim called his lengthy suspension "completely unacceptable."

If the team believes he's turned his life around, Washington is still young enough to make a difference in the NFL. That said, it's highly unusual to see a player vanish for three seasons before catapulting back into the mix.

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