The Associated Press has announced that it will re-vote the 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, which it awarded to Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing last season. ESPN.com has the details.
The AP has made this decision in light of Cushing's four-game suspension for violating the NFL's steroid policy. Cushing has admitted that he consumed a non-steroid banned substance, which caused him to fail a drug test last September.
Cushing is still eligible to win the award in the re-vote. Cushing received 39 of 50 votes for the award, easily outstripping Bills free safety Jairus Byrd, who finished second in voting with six votes. Cushing had a tremendous rookie season, accumulating 134 tackles, five sacks, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and a safety in 16 starts. Byrd, meanwhile, intercepted nine passes as a part-time starter for Buffalo; those nine interceptions were tied for the most in the league last season.
Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews is also considered a strong candidate to claim the award; he's coming off a rookie season in which he recorded 10 sacks as Green Bay transitioned to the 3-4 defense.
All I know is this: it's not often that free safeties completely change the landscape of a game all by themselves. Byrd's big plays were huge momentum shifters in mid-season wins over the eventual AFC runner-up New York Jets and the Carolina Panthers. He recorded eight of his nine interceptions in a five-game stretch from October to November. I thought he should have won the award originally (perhaps I'm a bit biased), and now that opportunity exists once again.