A suspension was expected and was being prepared for.
A year-long ban was not.
But, nonetheless, the Arizona Cardinals have to move forward without Daryl Washington in 2014. The Pro Bowl linebacker was suspended Friday for at least one year by the NFL for violating its substance abuse policy and program. That leaves a gaping hole in the middle of Arizona's defense. Second-year linebacker Kevin Minter will assume one ILB position but the other is up for grabs.
"As it pertains to our team, our approach is the same as it's always been: next man up," Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said in a statement. "We talk a lot about how critical depth is to a team because situations always arise where you lose players, whether by injury or other circumstances such as this one. One player's absence is another's opportunity. That approach has served us well in the past and we will rely on it now."
On deck will be veteran Larry Foote, who the Cardinals signed on May 7. The Cardinals' depth at the position is young and inexperienced. Second-year linebacker Kenny Demens impressing during OTAs but he was active for just games last season. Recently acquired Keenan Clayton has game experience but that's the extent of Arizona's experience. Also on the roster are JoJo Dickson and rookies Glenn Carson and Jonathan Brown.
Former Dallas linebacker Ernie Sims visited the Cardinals on Thursday, a source told ESPN.
Arizona isn't quite in def-con mode just yet, but their options to find a suitable replacement for Washington are limited. There aren't many three-down backs who are comparable to Washington, who was the only player in the NFL with at least 300 tackles and 15 sacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information, to begin with. To find one on free agency or on the waiver wire will be next to impossible.
What magic Arizona's personnel department can work will be closely watched through training camp. In just a few months, the Cardinals' inside linebackers went from Washington and Karlos Dansby to Minter and a player to be named later.
Keim has his work cut out for him.