Top rookie ballot box re-opens for Byrd

Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd will have another crack at winning the NFL's defensive rookie of the year award.

The Associated Press, purveyors of the widely accepted version of the award, has decided to allow its voters to recast ballots after the revelation that last year's winner, Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing, violated the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs in September.

Byrd finished second in voting for AP's defensive rookie award, but Cushing won in a landslide, 39-6. Cushing can win the award again. He will return to the ballot, giving voters the option to vote for him while considering his violation. The league, after all, did allow Cushing to keep playing.

Also on the ballot are Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews and Washington Redskins defensive end Brian Orakpo.

"This is the first time we've encountered an issue like this," said Lou Ferrara, AP's managing editor for sports and entertainment. "Because these awards are based on on-field performance, we consider it necessary to review the matter and allow for a re-vote, especially after concerns were raised by many of our voters."

Cushing's transgression came to light last week. The NFL suspended him for the first four games of the upcoming season, and Cushing's appeal was denied last week.