GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As one of the best young defensive players in the league, Daryl Washington is not accustomed to playing with the reserves. Facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL substance abuse policy, the Arizona Cardinals' standout inside linebacker finds himself working out with the second- and third-string players in training camp.
He also is facing assault and criminal trespass charges stemming from an incident with his former girlfriend. Washington appeared in court on Tuesday and the case was continued to Oct. 9. He has pleaded not guilty.
Everything seemed so much brighter a year ago, when after just two seasons in the NFL, the former second-round draft pick out of TCU signed a six-year contract worth up to $31 million. The deal was reached just three days before the season began, and Washington proceeded to have the best year of his career.
Utilizing his speed and athleticism in Arizona's 3-4 defense, he led the team with 140 tackles, nine sacks and 14 tackles for loss. One of the few bright spots in a dismal 5-11 season, Washington earned his first Pro Bowl nod.
Then in early April, the NFL announced that Washington had been suspended for the first four games of the coming season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. At the time, he issued a contrite statement through the team.
"I was always taught that when you make a mistake, you admit it, learn from it and face whatever consequences there are," the statement read. "I take full responsibility and I understand that I let down my teammates, the organization and fans. I apologize for that and promise that no one will work harder to make up for it."
A month later, Washington was in the news again for the wrong reason.
He was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and criminal trespass. Prosecutors accused him of grabbing his ex-girlfriend, the mother of the couple's baby girl, by the throat and shoving her to the ground during an argument at her apartment.
Washington was freed after posting $2,400 bond. As the case grinds through the court, it's unknown whether it will lead to further NFL disciplinary action.
"He's getting a bunch of reps," Arians said. "He'll play in a bunch of preseason games, probably more than he ever has, so that his preseason is his September, so that he has plenty of snaps in our defense and is ready to go."
Arians said he believes Washington has learned from what has happened to him this year.
"I think he knows his mistakes and he's fine," the coach said, "and I'm fine with where he's at right now."
Washington must know what a precarious situation he's in. More off the field trouble can only lead to more uncertainty for what seemed like such a bright NFL future. He's due a $10 million option bonus from the Cardinals next March.
"I'm a pretty strong person so I always try to take a negative situation and turn it into a positive," he said, "and I think in the end it's going to make me a stronger person overall."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press