The news that Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance in September has the Associated Press reconsidering the Defensive Rookie of the Year award that Cushing received after the season.
Asked via e-mail whether Cushing’s positive test could change his status as the Associated Press Rookie of the Year, the AP‘s Barry Wilner said, “We are looking into it.” But Wilner added that any decision would involve talking it over with several people, and there’s no timetable for making a decision on the matter.
As I see it, there are four possibilities:
1. The AP could allow Cushing to keep the award.
2. The AP could strip Cushing of the award and announce that no one will be named 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year.
3. The AP could strip Cushing of the award and announce that Bills safety Jairus Byrd, who came in second, is the 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year.
4. The AP could have its panel of 50 media members vote again for 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year.
There seems to be growing momentum for Byrd to receive the award. The Bills’ official web site has a post up today noting that Peter King of Sports Illustrated has supported giving the award to Byrd, and Byrd’s teammate Donte Whitner is already on the record as saying Cushing should be stripped of the award.
On the other hand, a re-vote might be a fairer way of handling it. Cushing got 39 of 50 votes, while Byrd finished second with six votes, Clay Matthews had three votes and Brian Orakpo got two votes. We don’t know how the 39 voters who picked Cushing would have voted if they had known Cushing had failed a drug test, but it’s entirely possible that most of them would have voted for Matthews, Orakpo or someone else, rather than Byrd.
It’s also possible that the majority of the voters would have picked Cushing even if they had known he had failed a drug test. If the AP has a re-vote, it’s not clear whether they’d allow Cushing to remain on the ballot.
Ultimately, there is no easy solution. The NFL waited until after the season to decide on Cushing’s appeal, and now the AP is going to wait a little longer before deciding what to do about a Rookie of the Year award that some of its voters no longer believe he deserves.