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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans out-Patriot the Patriots

Texans take down the Pats. Photo by Getty Images.

Every dog has its day. A broken clock is right two times a day. All the clichés about it being better to be lucky than good can apply here with the Texans 27-20 win over the Patriots. In a matchup that broke a record for the oldest combined age for opposing head coaches, 141 years old, Romeo Crennel beat his former boss Bill Belichick. There were other narratives at work here, as well as a few things (good and awful) that the coaching staff did.

First thing I saw that I liked was the spread and no-huddle on offense. If you've been following this series of articles, you know I've been on this train quite a while now. This allows Deshaun Watson to find the matchup he likes, exposes the defense because they can't sub, takes advantage of Texans' speed at receiver, and creates a tempo most defenses can't keep up with. Not to mention the spread is the offense Watson operated in at Clemson. 28/37 for 344 yards and two touchdowns of production from Watson was enough for me to say they need to have this as their M.O. moving forward.

Tim Kelly called a great game. He used the short, quick pass game in lieu of the run game. This also helped since Laremy Tunsil was out and Roderick Johnson had to play at left tackle. This offensive line is not very good at run blocking. Hence, why Watson was again the team's leading rusher with only 36 yards. Almost all of those were on scrambles. By going spread and no-huddle, Watson can take advantage of man and zone coverages to extend plays or scramble because most teams won't spy him. Even when they do, he makes them look silly.

Not everything was on the up and up. The defense continued to look like booty juice. Cam Newton threw for 365 yards and Damiere FREAKIN Byrd torched them for 132 of those yards! When I heard the quote from Crennel that defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver is getting the most out of his guys, I found it laughable. To double down on that, Weaver was quoted as saying, "This narrative that's being painted like my guys aren't disciplined and running around blocks, quite frankly and to put it bluntly, is bull---t!" Sorry guys, but you're both wrong. This defense can't fight its way out of a wet paper bag if you gave them knives. The worst part about it is that the offense's best chance at success sets the defense up for failure. Their hurry up scheme leaves little time for this porous defense to catch its wind. If they could get some turnovers or just off the damn field and get stops, it would help the offense.

With six games left, their three games outside the AFC South (Bengals, Lions, Bears) are all winnable. The two matchups against the Colts and the season finale against the Titans will prove to be their biggest tests. However, this is the same team that has four one possession losses. 3-7 could look a lot different if the offense stepped up against the Browns, or the defense made stops against the Steelers, Vikings, or Titans. Let's hope they can build off this win and salvage whatever they can of this season.

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