AP could give Bills safety top rookie honor

ESPN's Adam Schefter reports Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing violated the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances with a failed test in September.

How should that have affected his receipt of the defensive rookie of the year award?

The award is handled by The Associated Press, not the NFL. So should the AP strip him of the honor and give it to the player who finished second in the balloting, Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd?

That could happen.

Asked if Cushing could be stripped, AP reporter Barry Wilner, who oversees balloting for the wire service's annual NFL awards, told me in an e-mail "we are looking into it." Wilner didn't elaborate on what would happen if the AP did strip Cushing.

Byrd was the runner-up, but the award also could be left vacant, which might be a stronger message to send.

Cushing theoretically produced the bulk of his phenomenal season while clean. Once he was caught, he would be forced to undergo additional tests, which we can assume he passed.

But without taking the PEDs up until that point, maybe he doesn't get drafted 15th overall and take over such an integral role in the Texans' defense.

He finished with a team-high 133 tackles, four sacks, 13 tackles for losses, 13 quarterback hits, four interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Cushing might have been clean, but he apparently had a lot of help to get into position to make such an impact. Byrd's season, meanwhile, looks all the more impressive. He played most of the year with a sports hernia. Surgery placed him on injured reserve for the last two games, yet he still tied for the NFL lead with nine interceptions.

Had voters for the award known Cushing had broken the rules in September, the only way he would've won the award is enough of them were able to justify it by saying "Well, the NFL let him play." I doubt enough of the voters would have been able to overlook the violation.

The defensive rookie of the year award doesn't fall under the so-called Merriman Rule because it isn't sanctioned by the NFL -- but it wouldn't matter if it was an official league award.

In response to San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman testing positive, the NFL in 2007 instituted a policy that bars a player suspended for PEDs from the Pro Bowl the season they're suspended and doesn't retroactively apply to the season in which he tested positive.

That means Cushing gets to keep last year's Pro Bowl appearance on his résumé.