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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Kyle Tucker had a big day at the plate on Sunday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of the series, with one team or the other putting on a solid offensive performance in each, the Astros tried to win their fourth series in their last five by taking the rubber game on Sunday against the Blue Jays. Thanks in part to a big day from Kyle Tucker, who played a significant role in the early offense they used to power to the win, they would accomplish their mission.

Final Score: Astros 7, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 18-16, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Nate Pearson (0-1)

Kyle Tucker helps lead the offense to seven unanswered runs

Houston did not go easy on Nate Pearson in his 2021 debut. After a scoreless first, the Astros loaded the bases on two walks and a single, then brought the first run of the day home on an RBI walk by Michael Brantley. Another walk opened the door in the bottom of the third, and Kyle Tucker capitalized with an RBI triple to make it 2-0, followed by an RBI single by Robel Garcia to make it a three-run lead, ending Pearson's day one out into the bottom of the third.

Things didn't get easier for Toronto's pitching in the next inning, as Jose Altuve would lead off the bottom of the fourth with a solo homer. A single and a walk then set up another big hit for Kyle Tucker, a three-run dinger to make it seven unanswered runs and giving Tucker four RBI on the day.

Blue Jays pound Greinke in the fifth

After four shutout innings to start his day on the mound, working around a few hits along the way, Zack Greinke tried to cash in on his team's offense to get another win on his record. He wouldn't be able to get it done, though, as Toronto would get after him in the top of the fifth. They would score four times amongst five batters that came to the plate, with a solo homer by Rowdy Tellez, a two-RBI double by Bo Bichette, and an RBI single by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

That made it a 7-4 game, and with Greinke still not having recorded an out in the frame, Dusty Baker would lift him at 88 pitches in favor of Bryan Abreu, who would get a pop out and a double play to end the inning and keep the lead at three runs. Greinke's final line: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 88 P.

Houston takes the series

No more runs would come on either side the rest of the way, with Kent Emanuel working around a single for a scoreless sixth, Ryne Stanek getting a 1-2-3 seventh, and Andre Scrubb doing the same in the eighth to set up Ryan Pressly for the save. Pressly would get the job done, sending the Blue Jays down in order, including two strikeouts to wrap up the win and giving Houston the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will stay at home to continue this homestand, welcoming in the Angels for three games starting Monday at 7:10 PM Central. The opener will feature a pitching matchup of Alex Cobb (1-2, 5.48 ERA) for Los Angeles and Luis Garcia (0-3, 3.28 ERA) for Houston.

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