NFL Notes: Texans LB Brian Cushing suspended 10 games for PEDs

USA Today Images

NFL Notes: Texans LB Brian Cushing suspended 10 games for PEDs

Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing has been suspended for 10 games by the NFL for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

It's the second time Cushing has been suspended; he missed four games in 2010 under the same policy, testing positive for a fertility drug. Cushing had won 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year, an honor which was jeopardized by the suspension. He kept the award after a revote by The Associated Press' awards panel.

Currently in the NFL's concussion protocol after being injured in Houston's opening loss to Jacksonville, Cushing will be eligible to return on Nov. 28.

Cushing has had a checkered career since his sensational rookie season. Injuries curtailed the 2012 and `13 seasons, when he got into a total of 12 games. He's never come close to matching his first-year production of 86 tackles, 47 assists, four sacks, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and 10 passes defensed.

The 2009 defensive rookie revote came after Cushing tested positive for HCG, a fertility drug that is on the NFL's banned substance list. He had one positive test from a urine sample taken in September 2009, then subsequently tested negative several times (see full story).

Cowboys: NFL trying to speed appeal over blocked Elliott ban
FRISCO, Texas -- The NFL is trying to accelerate the timeline in its appeal of a federal judge's injunction that blocked Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension over a domestic violence case.

The NFL quickly answered a filing from Elliott's attorneys Wednesday, telling U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant that the league would immediately go to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans if he didn't rule on its request for a stay of his injunction by Thursday.

The legal maneuverings are unlikely to keep last year's NFL rushing leader from playing Sunday at Denver. He had already been cleared to play in a season-opening win over the New York Giants before Mazzant granted his request for an injunction.

The NFL had until Friday to respond to arguments from Elliott's camp against Mazzant rescinding his own order blocking the suspension. In that scenario, Mazzant wouldn't have ruled until next week (see full story).

Dolphins: Stills calls for athletes to support Kaepernick
OXNARD, Calif. -- Kenny Stills wants to know why more athletes aren't standing with Colin Kaepernick.

The Miami Dolphins receiver has restated his questions from a series of tweets Tuesday questioning the support across sports for Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback currently out of football after his protests during the national anthem last season.

"I just feel like the league, it's majority African-American, and you would think more people would come to have one of our guys' back," Stills said Wednesday.

"We talk about the NFL being a brotherhood," Stills added. "They give us this presentation every year about the NFL being a brotherhood, and (if) something wrong is going on to one of your brothers, I feel like we should be there to have his back and speak up for him."

Stills spoke after practice in Oxnard, where the Dolphins are spending the week ahead of Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Chargers. They traveled to the West Coast early due to Hurricane Irma's devastation of South Florida.

Kaepernick spoke up against police abuses and racial injustices last season, sparking many players to join him in activism. Those players included Stills, who knelt during the national anthem along with three teammates.

Stills had previously said he won't take a knee this year, but said Wednesday that he might re-evaluate his plans.

Giants: Manning not worried about offense
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Fourteen seasons in the NFL have taught Eli Manning not to make too much of one game.

Sure, the New York Giants' offense was pathetic in a season-opening 19-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

The statistics screamed bad game: three points, 233 total yards, 35 on the ground, 53 total plays, just under 26 minutes of possession, three sacks. It was awful, and even missing leading receiver Odell Beckham Jr. with a sprained ankle was no excuse for such a performance.

There was blame to go around a couple of times, from the offensive line to the wideouts who could not get open.

Manning was quick to answer when asked if he was worried about the offense, which also struggled last season despite an 11-5 record.

"First game," the two-time Super Bowl MVP said. "Guys were playing fast, got some good guys out there, some new bodies. So, we'll bounce back. We'll be fine. We just have to slow down, everybody take a breath and just run the plays the way we've been running them all spring and all summer."

Chiefs: Smith shrugs off win, turns focus to Eagles
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A year ago, all four of Kansas City's regular-season losses came after big wins. Big wins like the Chiefs' rout of New England last week to open their season.

Two of those losses came at Arrowhead Stadium, which will be the site of Sunday's game against Philadelphia. The Eagles opened their season with a 30-17 win over Washington.

For quarterback Alex Smith, word that he was the AFC's offensive player of the week after the upset of the Patriots brought only a brief smile.

"I just think that if you play long enough you realize how quick things can change," Smith said Wednesday. "One week everybody's raving about you and how quickly it can flip if you drink the Kool-Aid."

Smith finished the opener 28-of-35 passing for 368 yards and four touchdowns, but that's old news to him and the rest of the Chiefs.

"Certainly it's nice but at this point I feel like preparations are already begun on the Eagles," he said. "I've certainly seen teams where they play really good and they're feel so good about themselves and walk into the next week and get smacked in the mouth."

Vikings: Captain Bradford now comfortable as leader 
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Sam Bradford has been named one of the Minnesota Vikings' captains, an obviously natural selection as the quarterback.

This is the first time for Bradford serving in that role on the field since 2013 with St. Louis, though, thanks to an injury and two trades. Finally settled after that whirlwind season in 2016 for the Vikings, Bradford has the comfort in his surroundings to help foster the high level of leadership that his position demands.

"It means a lot, and I take a lot of pride in it," Bradford said. "I think there's a lot of responsibility that comes with that and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure to live up to that."

The 29-year-old's performance in the opener Monday against New Orleans sure looked like that of the franchise player.

"I said this offseason that this would be a big year for Sam," said tight end Kyle Rudolph, who caught one of the three touchdown passes. "I wasn't surprised."

The first pick in the 2010 draft by St. Louis, Bradford never truly found his footing there with some weak supporting casts and major injuries that squelched his progress. He didn't play in his final season with the Rams because of a torn ACL in his right knee for a second straight year. Then he was dealt to Philadelphia in 2015 and to Minnesota in 2016. Setting the NFL record for completion percentage last season was quite the accomplishment considering he arrived eight days before the opener.

Redskins: Cousins aims to rebound vs. mentor
ASHBURN, Va. -- When Sean McVay left the Washington Redskins to coach the Los Angeles Rams, Kirk Cousins signed a jersey for him with a poignant message.

"I owe you my career."

During McVay's three seasons as offensive coordinator and two as play-caller, Cousins became a full-time NFL starting quarterback and set and broke the franchise record for passing yards. Now Cousins is trying to rebound from a rough season opener against one of the coaches who knows him the best.

"There is a familiarity there and that does present a challenge, as you'd imagine, with knowing what makes the offense go, not only the scheme but the personnel, and so we've got to be aware of that and plan accordingly," Cousins said Wednesday. "If we can run our plays very detailed and be disciplined in the way we execute, usually that can overcome familiarity. But certainly if we don't execute well, it certainly gives them the opportunity to capitalize."

Last week in an opening home loss to the Eagles, Cousins was 20 of 43 for 240 yards with a touchdown, an interception and two fumbles. The interception at the goal line was a turning point in the game, and his sack-fumble that was returned for a touchdown essentially ended it.

Cousins said if McVay were still around he'd have the same advice as coach Jay Gruden, offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh and quarterbacks coach Kevin O'Connell. But McVay also was always the coach who told Cousins in good times and bad: "I believe in you."

Vinny Curry reportedly heading to the Buccaneers

USA Today Images

Vinny Curry reportedly heading to the Buccaneers

One day after being released from the Eagles, Vinny Curry has reportedly already found a new home.

The defensive end is heading to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a three-year deal worth up to $27 million, with an $11.5 million injury guarantee, according to ESPN's Jenna Laine.

After signing him to a five-year, $47.25 million extension in 2016, the Eagles moved on from Curry and his scheduled $11 million cap hit on Friday. The transaction saved the Eagles $5 million in cap space, with $6 million in dead money.

While Curry, 29, had the best season of his career in 2017, his production still didn't match his high cap number and he became more expendable after the Eagles acquired Pro Bowler Michael Bennett from the Seahawks.

Curry will join former Eagles defensive tackle Beau Allen in Tampa Bay. Allen signed a three-year, $15 million deal with the Buccaneers earlier in the week. 

As Bradham re-signs, he lauds former teammate

AP Images

As Bradham re-signs, he lauds former teammate

After getting the opportunity to stay with the Super Bowl champions, Nigel Bradham spoke at length and quite passionately about someone who didn’t get the same opportunity.
Brent Celek.
Bradham, the veteran linebacker, spent the last two years with Celek, who the Eagles released earlier this week after 11 seasons.
“That’s obviously devastating, man,” Bradham said. “Taking about a guy who was here his whole career and the way he came every day and his character every day.
“He really … me and a lot of guys on our team what it takes to win a Super Bowl, and he let us know it doesn’t come easy, it takes work, and he came in and worked every day. Like no other.”
Celek was due to earn $5 million in 2018 but is counting only $1 million in dead money against the 2018 cap, so the Eagles gained $4 million under the cap by releasing him.
That cap space certainly helped them find room to re-sign Bradham, who enjoyed a career-best season in 2017 for the Super Bowl champs.
But Bradham was effusive in his praise for the veteran tight end, who has played the fourth-most games in Eagles history.
“You would never know he was (11) years in because of the way he worked,” Bradham said. “So when you lose a guy like that it obviously takes a toll on your team.
“You hate to lose guys like that that meant so much and impacted this team so much. His leadership was on another level. He went over and beyond the things he could have done as a leader. Obviously, wish he could be here still.”