In a statement on Saturday, Texans linebacker Brian Cushing said that he disagreed with and was disappointed by the NFL's decision to suspend him for the first four games of the 2010 season.
Texans owner Bob McNair shed a little bit of light on the subject on Monday.
"Brian, what he has said is he's been taking the same supplements he's been taking for the last (several) years," McNair said at a charity golf tournament benefitting the Houston Texans Foundation. "He's been checked umpteen times, and it hasn't shown up to be any kind of problem. So what happened, I don't know. He doesn't know at this point in time. In fact, 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."
Cushing also said in his statement that the banned substance he tested positive for was "non-steroidal." McNair noted that while violations of the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy can occur for any number of reasons, including contaminated supplements, the onus ultimately falls upon the player.
"A player's responsible for what he puts in his body," McNair said. "The league has rules, and they enforce the rules…Each player is responsible for what they put in their body, and they're the only ones that can control that."
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said that he spoke with Cushing a couple of times on Saturday. Cushing is at home in New Jersey dealing with a death in the family and is expected to return to Houston on Wednesday.
"He's disappointed, right along with everybody else," Kubiak said. "I think he's a little confused, but at the same time, it is what it is right now."
Cushing is allowed to participate in all of the Texans' offseason activities, including OTAs, training camp and the preseason. His suspension begins on Saturday, Sept. 4, and ends Monday, Oct. 4, following the Texans' Week 4 game against the Oakland Raiders. He also will miss games against the Indianapolis Colts, Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys.
"Obviously, I'm very disappointed, because it affects the football team a great deal," Kubiak said. "He's a huge piece of the puzzle. We're sitting here all offseason getting ready to go, and now we've got to do some adjusting. So I'm very disappointed from that standpoint, but we've got to move forward, and we will."
Several reports since Friday have suggested that starting weakside linebacker Zac Diles will move to the strongside as Cushing's temporary replacement. Diles started on the strongside in 2008, when he led the team with 66 tackles through eight games before suffering a season-ending injury.
"That didn't come from me," Kubiak said of that speculation. "To me, Zac's on the verge of becoming a Pro Bowl WILL linebacker in this league, so we're not going to go panic and move him around and do that. We're going to leave Zac where he's at. We'll find out who gives us the best chance to replace Cush going into the first month."
Two names that Kubiak did mention as possible temporary replacements for Cushing: Xavier Adibi, a 2008 fourth-round pick who played sparingly last season, and Kevin Bentley, a veteran special teams captain. The Texans also have Miami (Fla.) linebacker Darryl Sharpton, a rookie fourth-round pick whom they plan to use at weakside or middle linebacker.
"We've got some fine young players on our football team," Texans general manager Rick Smith said. "That is a position we feel like we've got some depth at. Of course, we'll look around and see if there's anybody out there that might be able to come in and help us as well."
While the Texans feel good about the players who'll vie to fill in for Cushing, there's obviously a much more pressing question at hand – and the media didn't shy away from asking it on Monday:
Once Cushing returns from his suspension, do the Texans think he can be the same player that he was before?
"I do," Smith said, without a moment of hesitation. "One thing about the guy is he works extremely hard at everything he does. I don't see any reason why that will change, and I think he'll be better for it."
A first-round draft pick from USC, Cushing led the Texans with 133 tackles last season. He also had four sacks and four interceptions on his way to Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors.
"I think Brian's a great football player...and he's a fine kid, too," Kubiak said. "He's done everything we've asked him to do. I think he's made a big mistake, and he'll pay for that mistake and our team will have to pay for that mistake and work through that mistake, but I don't have any doubt that he'll come back and have a very productive career here for the city of Houston and this organization."
Texans players at Monday's golf tournament also voiced support for Cushing.
"It's an unfortunate circumstance right now," quarterback Matt Schaub said. "As a team, we're going to hang together and stick together and be behind Brian. He'll be back with us. It's just one of those things that we have to deal with. It's the adversity of the league, and we just have to keep working. We're excited about the offseason and how it's going as a group, and we're still looking forward to OTAs starting next week."