Texans' Cushing could lose $2.6M in future money over suspension

Brian Cushing's four-game suspension for using a performance-enhancing drug could cost him more than the 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. It also might lighten his wallet.

NFL.com's Gil Brandt reported Tuesday that the suspension could affect lucrative contract escalators that would pay the Houston Texans linebacker as much as $2.6 million.

According to Brandt, Cushing must play 80 percent of the Texans' defensive snaps and make the Pro Bowl in three of the first four years of the contract to trigger the escalators. He reached both of those goals as a rookie in 2009, but his four-game suspension disqualifies him from next year's Pro Bowl and makes it highly unlikely that he will reach the 80 percent mark in total plays in 2010.

Forget the revote

Vic Carucci believes Texans LB Brian Cushing should be outright stripped of his postseason honors following a four-game suspension for using a banned substance. More ...

Cushing would have to reach those goals in 2011 and again in 2012 to earn the $2.6 million in the fifth year of the contract.

Cushing's contract also included a $2.219 million bonus for several performance-based goals, including the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Cushing met other incentives that triggered the bonus last season, so he wouldn't lose that money if The Associated Press takes away the honor.

The AP announced Monday that it's conducting a revote for defensive rookie and All-Pro outside linebacker honors. Cushing received five All-Pro votes and made the second team.

Cushing is still among the nominees in the revote, and ballots are due by noon ET Wednesday.

"This is the first time we've encountered an issue like this," said Lou Ferrara, AP's managing editor for sports and entertainment. "Because these awards are based on on-field performance, we consider it necessary to review the matter and allow for a revote, especially after concerns were raised by many of our voters."

Cushing was a runaway winner for the defensive rookie award in balloting by a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league. He received 39 votes, easily beating Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd, who had six.

Texans owner Robert McNair said Monday he knew during the season that Cushing had "an issue" with the NFL, but he didn't have details from the league of what it concerned.

Waddle: Revote is right

I think [the AP] should revote. I understand there's some gray area here, because we don't know what caused the positive test result.

Ultimately, Brian Cushing and every other member of the NFL is responsible for what they put in their bodies. He tested positive in September of 2009, the year in which he won the award. I think you have to punish him for testing positive in that year. I think you revote and give it to someone who didn't break the rules.

-- Tom Waddle

McNair criticized the suspension and appeal process because, he said, it doesn't provide enough information to the team.

"The club is left completely out of the loop on that," McNair said. "We're not even notified, it's the league and the player and the players' union. All we know is what's been announced at this point in time."

"Brian had mentioned that he had an issue there, but we don't know what any of the details are, we don't know what doctors he may have consulted with, we don't know what evidence that the league might have had ... which is a very bad position to be in because we're the guy that's got the investment in the player. The league doesn't have any money invested in the player, the union doesn't have any money invested in the player, and yet they get the information and we don't.

"So it's a sensitive area because it is sort of like medical information and there's confidentiality and this sort of thing. But I think it's something that needs to be addressed in the next collective bargaining agreement."

Cushing is suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2010 season, even though he said he took the substance in September, the first month of the 2009 schedule. He appealed the ban, and a final decision was handed down last week.

Needing depth at linebacker because of the suspension, the Texans are bringing back Danny Clark, who played for the New York Giants the last two seasons after leaving Houston. Clark told KRIV-TV on Tuesday that he agreed to a one-year contract.

Cushing will not be eligible for next season's Pro Bowl -- he made the AFC team last January but didn't play, citing several injuries -- or any NFL-sponsored awards.

"In the year a player is notified of and serves his suspension, he is ineligible for selection to the Pro Bowl or to receive any other honors or awards from the league or the NFL Players Association," NFL spokesman Michael Signora said Monday.

That includes player of the week and player of the month awards, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award or the Super Bowl most valuable player award.

Cushing can participate in all training camp and preseason activities, then must leave the Texans for the first four weeks of the season.

Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga, a former teammate at USC, expressed support for Cushing and called him after news of the suspension broke.

"I'm just thinking about what happened to me with the DUI (arrest in January), how I didn't want anybody to talk to me," Maualuga told NFL.com senior Steve Wyche on Monday night. "I'm not saying I know how he feels, but I'm just comparing it to how I felt, with people calling and texting and asking me, 'What happened?' All I did was say, 'This, too, shall pass. You'll be all right, bro.' He said, 'Thanks. I appreciate it.' He knows I have his back.

"I know he's going through a lot. A lot of people are going to say that he's a cheater and all that. His success came from working hard. He's one of hardest-working guys I know."

A first-round draft pick out of USC, Cushing had 133 tackles for the Texans, who went 9-7, their first winning record. He also had four sacks, four interceptions and two forced fumbles -- numbers that normally belong to a seasoned veteran.

But Cushing won't be available to the Texans until Oct. 4.

"Brian, what he has said, is he's been taking the same supplements ... for the last 10 or 15 years and he's been checked umpteen times and it hadn't shown up to be any kind of problem," McNair said. "So what happened, I don't know. He doesn't know at this point in time.

"The fact (is) that he didn't think he would get the suspension, but that's the way it is at this point in time, and we accept it and we need to move on."

San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman won the 2005 defensive rookie award, then tested positive for steroids contained in a supplement during the 2006 offseason. Then-Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers won the 2002 award even though he already had been suspended for the final four games of the season for violating the league's drug policy -- he used a dietary supplement that contained a banned substance.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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