The NFL suspended linebacker Daryl Washington for the first four games of the 2013 regular season.
The season is still six months away, but the Cardinals already know they will be without one of their stars when it begins.
The NFL announced Wednesday that Pro Bowl linebacker Daryl Washington will be suspended the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL's Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. Washington can still participate in all offseason, training camp and preseason game work with the team, but he will not be allowed at the team facility once the first week of the regular season starts through the completion of the fourth regular-season game.
"I was always taught that when you make a mistake, you admit it, learn from it and face whatever consequences there are," Washington said in a statement. "I take full responsibility and I understand that I let down my teammates, the organization and fans. I apologize for that and promise that no one will work harder to make up for it."
The policy Washington violated is separate from the one for the league concerning performance-enhancing drugs.
It's a blow to a defense that saw Washington emerge as a Pro Bowl candidate last season. Washington led the team with 140 tackles and nine sacks, adding an interception and six passes defensed.
"Adversity and dealing with it is part of the business but when it's avoidable like this was, it's particularly tough," Head Coach Bruce Arians said in a statement. "One of the biggest things we preach is accountability. Daryl knows that and our team knows that. We will deal with this and others will have to step up until he's back. I'm confident they will."
Arians can speak from experience. He was the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh in 2010 when the Steelers had quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suspended the first four games of the season. The Steelers ended up going 3-1 in that stretch.
The Cardinals will now have a whole offseason to determine the best way to fill in for Washington's absence. The other inside linebackers currently on the roster are Jasper Brinkley, Reggie Walker and Colin Parker. Washington's fellow starter last season, Paris Lenon, remains on the free-agent market if the Cardinals wanted a familiar face. They could also look into an outside linebacker like Lorenzo Alexander or Sam Acho to help mask the void.