Somehow, Brian Cushing trumped it all.
Cushing was re-awarded his 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year honor on Wednesday afternoon after failing an NFL drug test. The Associated Press voters decided, in bonehead style, that Cushing deserved the honor, despite his denials that he used steroids -- that he is only guilty of using a substance that is on the league's hit list.
Unless Cushing produces more compelling evidence, this result is a sham.
He is what he is, and this re-vote is what it should not have been.
This idea floating that the league's process is flawed because it did not enforce its drug-test findings until eight months after learning of the violation is not a credible defense for Cushing. The appeals process used by Cushing allowed him to play the entire 2009 season cloaked. He already gained the benefit of the process -- as did the Williams tandem in Minnesota last season as their Star Caps case wound its way through appeals and the courts -- prior to Wednesday's re-vote.
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And let's not confuse former Defensive Rookie of the Year award winners Julius Peppers (2002) and Shawne Merriman (2005) being allowed to keep their awards under similar circumstances with the argument that Cushing should keep his. We live in an ever-evolving NFL landscape where the climate, the knowledge, the patience with such matters has mushroomed in unpredictable ways. Getting it right now has nothing to do with missing the mark in the past. If the league used old notions and old methods as the primary benchmark for its future, it would be stuck on a track to nowhere.
And you best believe that the league has no intention of being caught in such a time warp, even if the AP voters are.
Change is everywhere on the NFL scene, from a new overtime game to a possible future Super Bowl being played outdoors in cold weather to new fan-friendly in-stadium gadgets to new ways to present its game on TV, including 3-D ideas.
Let's give the Associated Press credit for not making the unilateral decision of rescinding Cushing's previous honor and leaving his name on the ballot, if for little else to give the guy, no pun intended, a little cushion. Let's blast these voters who, in a dumbfounded manner, missed a huge chance to capture the essence of where we are with NFL drug cheaters and game integrity.
I spoke with a dozen officials representing a dozen NFL teams on Thursday and did not find one person who thought Cushing should keep the award. I strongly suspect that, across the league, Cushing's peers feel even more strongly in this regard.
One NFL general manager, requesting anonymity, offered this scorching view: "We did our research on him before the draft last year and we concluded he was a chronic steroid user dating back to high school. More than a few people were surprised when he passed the steroid tests at the combine. I think the guy became a pro at masking it, until he was caught. I definitely would have taken my vote back on that award if I had one."
There may not have been a more privately and publicly rumored steroid user than Cushing before any NFL Draft.
And there has never been proof of this issue before this failed test. He broke the NFL's rules. He should have paid for it -- in addition to lost wages and the four-game suspension -- with the award rescinded. He won't.
This result says that cheating is OK as long as you can find a loophole.
It is not.
Really, Brian Cushing the 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year?
It is what it isn't.