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Byrd deserved top rookie award

5/7/2010
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Cushing Suspended Four Games

Brian Cushing suspended four games for violating NFL's steroid policy

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- There was discussion in the Buffalo Bills' media workroom Friday about whether the Pro Football Hall of Fame should remove Lawrence Taylor if the distressing charges against him prove true.

Buffalo News reporter Mark Gaughan, a member of the Hall of Fame's board of selectors, explained that can't happen. Once a player has been inducted -- even if it's O.J. Simpson -- he's in for good.

The NFL doesn't have a history of stripping players of their honors. But in this age of performance-enhancing substances, what if a player earned an award while on steroids?

Last year's defensive rookie of the year, Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing, has been suspended the first four games of the upcoming season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Cushing was voted the top defensive rookie ahead of Bills safety Jairus Byrd, who was named to the Pro Bowl and tied for the league lead with nine interceptions despite playing most of the season with a sports hernia before bowing out the last two games to have surgery.

While we don't know if Cushing violated the policy during the 2009 season or after, it's hard to imagine anybody voting him rookie of the year if they were aware of the transgression.

He entered the league amid suspicions he was juicing, but without a positive test, everybody had to assume his performances were legitimate.

I didn't have a vote, but I agreed Cushing deserved the award ahead of Byrd.

It's possible Cushing broke the rules after he won the award. The NFL tests playoff teams as long as they keep playing, but the Texans didn't qualify. It also conducts offseason drug tests, but Cushing's suspension was handed down in February (the appeal was denied Friday), creating a small window for the violation to have taken place after the 2009 regular season.

As for Byrd, I spoke with him momentarily in the Bills' field house Friday. He looked like he was in good shape. Byrd watched the morning rookie camp session -- head coach Chan Gailey's first practice -- from the sidelines with cornerback Terrence McGee and linebacker Nic Harris. Byrd then went through a running workout inside the field house.