BARRY WARNER'S VIEW

Off the top of my bald head: Welcoming back the cheater Brian Cushing

Brian Cushing had help building those arms. Tim Warner/Getty Images

Whippee dipppee doooooo.

The return of the Prodigal Son.   

With a straight face at his Monday press conference, Bill O’Brien was asked ”How can ILB Brian Cushing add value to the defense? Specifically, with all the injuries, can he be an impact player?”

O’Brien’s answer: “Absolutely. His leadership, number one, his knowledge of our defense, his experience playing in our defense, his toughness. All of those things could definitely help our defense.”

No doubt the defense will be introduced, with the last player being No. 56, ten-year veteran Brian Cushing, coming off his 10-game PED suspension, the second of his career.  There is no question, when healthy, he was one of the top inside linebackers in the NFL.

But one question always came up, from his high days at Bergen Catholic in New Jersey to freshman USC and the Texas.  Like one of the Beatles Classics was he doing it with a classic from Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band:

Oh, I can get by with a little help from my friends

Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends

Mm, going to try with a little help my my friends

In his case, steroids.

Let me refresh your memory.

Cushing put himself in exalted territory after his rookie season when he first got popped.

With the blessing of Texans naive owner Bob McNair, the linebacker declared himself a victim of a previously unknown medical condition:

Overtrained athlete syndrome.

I am not making this up!

Cushing failed a drug test, played the entire NFL season, was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and then -- and only then -- was suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the following season.

He tested positive for Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, and yes, the first two syllables of the last word indicate he was trying to get some testosterone buildup going after a cycle of steroid use. That's what the NFL thinks, anyway.

I keep waiting for an athlete to use the addiction defense. Why hasn't this happened? It's foolproof and way more plausible than the fantasies we're being fed. Addiction is way more socially acceptable -- and medically backed -- than OTAS.

For one, Cushing is the only guy in the world who has been diagnosed with OTAS, so that might work against him in the arena of public opinion. 

How did the commissioner keep a straight face?  McNair sat across from Goodell and asked that Cushing's suspension be lifted because of the previously unknown condition OTAS.

In the process of defending and believing Cushing, McNair issued one of the most ill-informed statements on steroid use in the history of bloated athletes: "His weight hasn't changed appreciably since he's been with us," McNair told Peter King of Sports Illustrated.

Other owners and league suits just laughed behind McNair’s back.

I’ve always admired Cushing and his work-ethic but I have to admit that I’ll definitely view him a bit differently as time goes on.  I won’t go to the extreme and say that he’s a fraud because you still have to be talented to get into this league.   However, in a sport that’s so hinged on being the utmost of competitive, he may have cheated a bit to get to where he was.

Due to his numerous surgeries, he was never the same three down linebacker.  Watching him in pass coverage was hard, as he lost a couple of steps.

In this day and age of sport, where teams have multiple trainers and interests, there is no excuse for any player to put anything into their body without first checking.

There is a specific list of banned substances.

Period.

Even in a league with many semi-literate former “student athletes,” there should never be any excuse.

Treating Cushing like some hero coming back from multiple injuries is disingenuous. Taking reps away from rookie inside backer Zach Cunningham is just plain stupid.

He let his team down, again, costing himself close to $4 million in salary.

Bill O’Brien is forced to parrot the party line.

Welcome home cheater.

Soak it all up.

You will not be a Texan next year.

Chirp!

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Correa knows it's time for his payday. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Rangers made a big splash over the weekend when they agreed to terms on a 7-year $175 million contract with infielder Marcus Semien. Apparently, that was just the tip of the iceberg. According to multiple reports, the Rangers have also added arguably the most coveted player in free agency, Corey Seager. Seager and the Rangers have agreed to a massive 10-year $325 million contract.

Before the Seager news broke, many were starting to wonder if teams would be willing to hand out 10-year deals for over 300 million dollars with the lockout just around the corner. Now we have our answer, and Carlos Correa has to be a very happy man to see how the market is shifting. The Rangers not only added two incredible players, but they also made it pretty much a certainty that Correa will either leave Houston, or the Astros will have to sign him to a long-term $300 million deal, which is not likely based on their stance on multi-year big money contracts.

The Rangers aren't the only team in the AL West making blockbuster moves. The Mariners agreed to terms with 2021 AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray on Monday. Ray and Seattle agreed to a 5-year, $115 million contract.

The Angels joined in on the action a couple of weeks ago when they signed Noah Syndergard to a 1-year 21 million dollar deal.

Clearly, the AL West is on notice that they're going to have to make big changes if they want to compete with the Houston Astros who have dominated the AL recently with 5 straight ALCS appearances and 3 trips to the World Series. With Correa likely out the door in Houston, these teams might believe this is a perfect time to make a run at the division and finally knock off the Astros. Only time will tell if these deals will work, and the Astros look to have a terrific team this season whether Correa returns or not.

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