Game Time: Cush-Watch Day 5: AP Voters Get Their Sanctimony On

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I'm not sure what it says about your franchise when the most highly anticipated Monday is not a Monday following a big game nor the Monday after the NFL Draft, but instead it's the first Monday of "organized team activities" (OTA's for those into acronyms) in May, and it's compelling because you're waiting to watch the carnage of a media crush the likes of which the Texans have never seen before, at least not in May. Probably doesn't say anything good.

I'm not saying that the coverage next week will be exactly Favrian, with Rachel Nichols standing on the corner of Kirby and Murworth with updates to Sportscenter every twenty minutes, but I think we'll see a lot of new faces at the media sessions next week. More than usual. (That said, Rachel, if you are planning on covering Cush-Watch 2010, allow me to be the first to invite you to a nice seafood dinner!)

The Brian Cushing story is far from over. In some sense, it doesn't even really start to hit its stride until Cushing decides to speak to the media in some form other than statements released by his P.R. team -- the same P.R. team that couldn't speed-dial radio stations and news outlets fast enough to get Cushing on their air to "babyface" himself prior to the announcement of his suspension last Friday.

At this point, if the Cushing story were a round of golf, with the announcement of the suspension being the first tee shot (Cushing duckhook into the trees, by the way) and Cushing's return to the field in Week Five being his putt-out on the 18th hole, OTA's and training camp are kind of like the turn to the back nine. So perhaps it's appropriate, as Cushing waits to tee off at about the seventh hole of his journey, to take a look at the scorecard and see who the winners and losers are so far in Cush-Watch 2010


1. ME (Yay!) -- In the spirit of selfishness, I am going to start off the scorecard completely selfishly and tell you that my blog post yesterday was picked up by the Wall Street Journal! With the net worth of...well, a local sports-talk radio host and freelance blogger, let's just say this whole "me being in the Wall Street Journal" thing probably won't happen all that often, so if it's okay with all of you, I intend to brag about it and savor it for a minute or two.......aaaand, I'm done. Onward...

2. SANCTIMONY -- If you're keeping track, then-Carolina Panther rookie Julius Peppers was named 2002 Defensive Rookie of the Year, despite being suspended for the final four games of the season for using a banned supplement. San Diego Charger linebacker Shawne Merriman was named 2005 Defensive Rookie of the Year, and subsequently was suspended for four games during the 2006 season for flunking a steroid test. Both got to keep their awards, voted on by the AP, Peppers in spite of actually missing games during the season in question due to violating the league PED policy. So for some reason, the AP voters have decided to make an example out of Cushing and take a re-vote on his 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year award (as well as his status of second team All-Pro linebacker), this despite the NFL allowing him to play every game this season and despite the fact that he garnered 39 votes and the next closest rookie received six votes (Jairus Byrd, Buffalo safety, if you need him). Several voters, including John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, have said they plan to vote for Cushing again, even in the re-vote, which essentially means the exercise will have been done just so a handful of sanctimonious writers have another pulpit from which to "make their statement." Hope that was fun, guys.

3. PRANKS - I expressed the following sentiment in my blog post yesterday:

We don't know what it was that drew a positive test, you haven't said. Me, I'm kind of hoping it's the female fertility drug Manny Ramirez was on, just to lighten the mood and set up some awesome pranks on you from your teammates once this whole thing cools off. Seriously, admit it, you'd laugh if they welcomed you back in Week Five with a baby shower. You know it, you just won't admit it.

Well...DING DING DING!! We have a winner! As first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter, Brian Cushing tested positive for human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, or as I like to call it the "Manny Ramirez Drug." If this somehow doesn't end up with Cushing being faux registered at Babys R Us and his locker being decorated with pink and blue streamers for the first preseason game, I'm going to be pissed.


1. CLAY MATTHEWS -- Most underrated subplot of the whole Cushing "scandal" that nobody is talking about: his former USC teammate and current Green Bay Packer linebacker, Clay Matthews. Not to impugn someone who hasn't been proven guilty of any infractions yet, but let's line up a few dots. Clay Matthews was also accused of failing a steroid test at the combine, like Brian Cushing. Clay Matthews played alongside, trained alongside, bled/perspired/wept (you know, the whole "blood, sweat and tears" thing) alongside Brian Cushing. Is it irresponsible to ignore the possibility that maybe the fire generating the smoke isn't coming from just Cushing, or is it irresponsible to raise that possibility? Well, whatever the case, I'm raising that possibility. Yeah, I'll be watching Clay Matthews' for a drop-off in performance as much as Cushing in 2010. And my guess is that Matthews' random drug tests for PED's will now be "random," like with air quotes around it.

2. PETER KING -- To be fair, King gets mentioned in spots like this, as the face for a certain point of view, because he's one of the most-read NFL columnists on the internet. When he's good, he's really good, but when he tries to be the social conscience for all things football, he's more than a little annoying. Whether he likes it or not (my guess is he doesn't mind), King has become the representative voice of the faction behind the silly Cushing re-vote for his AP awards. My favorite part about his column today is the final blast on the Cushing re-vote situation:

But I won't be one of [Cushing's] supporters. I'll spend the day considering my options, and I'm leaning toward Green Bay outside linebacker Clay Matthews as my revoted choice.

See, now I'm actually rooting for Matthews to flunk a drug test, and that's not right. We interviewed him last year, and he seems like a cool kid. I hate when you make me into a bad person, Peter King.

3. TONY ROMO -- This has nothing to do with Brian Cushing other than the fact that you have to give his P.R. people credit. I mean, as transparent as their efforts now appear at least they had the right idea in trying to formulate as effective a textbook, preemptive strike as you could knowing what was about to come down. What the hell are Tony Romo's people thinking? You have a quarterback whose biggest criticism is...well, LOSING at the most inopportune (read: important) times and you put him on a show named The Biggest Loser? I know, the show is about weight loss, but still...I know, I know, you wanted to get him on television, but you couldn't get him on the new 90210? A little Steve Young circa 1995? Come on, people.

For all of your Cush-Watch 2010 coverage, keep it tuned right here to the Game Time segment of the Hair Balls blog on HoustonPress.com.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the "Sean & John Show", and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.

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