TEMPE, Ariz. — The Cardinals’ already revamped defense suffered a major blow on Wednesday when the NFL announced that Pro Bowl inside linebacker Daryl Washington has been suspended for the first four games of the 2013 season for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.
The policy is separate from the one concerning performance-enhancing drugs, but the length of the suspension suggests that Washington was in Stage 2 (three total) of the NFL policy, which would indicate a previous issue. The NFL substance abuse policy includes illegal drugs and abuse of over-the-counter drugs and alcohol.
What’s more, it appears the Cardinals and Washington may have known the suspension was coming, according to reports.
Washington signed a six-year, $32.5 million deal in September that runs through the 2017 season. He started every game last season and had 134 tackles, nine sacks and two forced fumbles. He led the team in tackles and sacks. As part of the suspension, he will forfeit $565,000 of his salary.
“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.”
Washington is allowed to participate in all offseason, training camp and preseason game work with the team, but he won’t be allowed at the team’s facility once the first week of the regular season begins. He can return when his suspension ends.
“Adversity and dealing with it is part of the business but when it’s avoidable like this was, it’s particularly tough,” 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.”
With Washington out and veteran free agent Paris Lenon not likely to return, the Cardinals could have five new starters on a defense that ranked 12th in the NFL last season. Safeties Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes and cornerback William Gay all were released, and Greg Toler, who shared a cornerback position with Gay, left via free agency.
The other inside linebackers on the roster are Jasper Brinkley, Reggie Walker and Arizona State product Colin Parker, who spent last season on the practice squad. The Cards could also move an outside linebacker to plug the gap.