Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington has been suspended for a year by the NFL.
In a blow to what was one of the best defenses in the league last season, the NFL has suspended linebacker Daryl Washington for at least a year, it was announced Friday.
The suspension is for a violation of the league's substance abuse policy, the same reason Washington was suspended last year, and unrelated to Washington's recent plea bargain for an assault charge. The suspension begins immediately.
"It's completely unacceptable that Daryl has once again put us in this position," Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said. "We all know what the consequences are and will deal with them. From a personal standpoint, our hope is that this suspension will give Daryl the opportunity to accept the necessary help and guidance to get his life back on track and we will certainly support him however we can.
"As it pertains to our team, our approach is the same as it's always been: next man up. 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."
Washington missed the first four games of the 2013 season also after violating the substance
abuse policy. He returned to help anchor what became the sixth-ranked defense in the NFL, and the top rushing defense.
In 12 games in 2013, Washington had 81 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions.
In a statement released by his agent, Washington acknolwedged the violation was related to marijuana use.
"The Policy is very strict, and I have chosen to take responsibility," Washington said. "I am committed to making changes in my life that will allow me to return to the NFL as soon as possible. I will work extremely hard to stay in top football shape, and will work equally as hard to ensure that my life off of the field meets the high level of maturity and responsibility to which I am committed.
"I sincerely apologize for the effect of my actions on my teammates, coaches and other colleagues at the Cardinals. I also apologize to Cardinals fans for the time I will miss. I will work diligently during this suspension and will return as a better man and football player."
The current ban means Washington cannot come to the team complex or be involved with the team at all save for a treatment session with "the Treating Clinician." During last year's four-game suspension, the policy did allow Washington to take part in meetings and be around the team.
With his absence, the Cardinals are now without the two inside linebackers who played the vast majority of the time in 2013. Karlos Dansby signed with Cleveland as a free agent back in March. The Cardinals all along planned to have second-year man Kevin Minter replace Dansby. Veteran Larry Foote figures to step into Washington's role, although the Cardinals also like former undrafted rookie Kenny Demens and have shifted Lorenzo Alexander inside.
Coach Bruce Arians said Tuesday he was hoping the Cardinals would be able to add a veteran inside linebacker at some point. Washington's absence would seemingly now make that a priority. The Cardinals did bring free agent Ernie Sims, a 2006 draftee of Detroit who played last year with Dallas, in for a visit.
Washington's future with the team beyond the suspension remains up in the air.
Just last week, Washington said he was a little nervous waiting for word from the NFL about possible punishment for his court case.
"I can't really worry about it because it's something that's going to happen," Washington said of a potential suspension. "I can't say I hope nothing happens. Something is going to happen and I am a little worried. But I am just ready for a decision to know where I stand. It's a waiting process right now."