Texans OL Brown gets 4-game drug suspension

Houston left tackle Duane Brown was suspended Tuesday for four

games without pay for violating the NFL’s policy on performance

enhancing drugs, joining linebacker Brian Cushing on the sideline

for the same infraction.

Brown, the Texans’ first-round draft choice and the 26th overall

pick in 2008, said he wouldn’t appeal the suspension, meaning his

next game will be Nov. 1 at Indianapolis. He will miss the

undefeated Texans’ home showdown Sunday with the Dallas Cowboys and

the next three games.

Brown apologized to the team’s owners, coaches, fans and his

teammates.

”I take full responsibility for putting myself in this

situation,” he said. ”I unknowingly took a supplement tainted

with a banned substance and now have to deal with the consequences.

After reviewing the appeal process and speaking with legal counsel,

I have decided not to appeal my suspension. I understand the rules

and accept my punishment.”

The team didn’t identify the supplement.

General manager Rick Smith said the team was disappointed and

called the suspension ”a significant blow.”

”Our players have to understand that they are responsible for

what goes into their bodies and that they take risks anytime they

use a supplement not approved by the NFL,” he said in a statement

released by the Texans. ”Our head athletic trainer, head strength

and conditioning coach as well as our team nutritionist have had

many meetings and presentations constantly reminding our players

about the dangers of the supplement industry and risks associated

with taking non-approved products.”

Right tackle Eric Winston said the Texans have raised awareness

among the players about the risks of using supplements since

Cushing was punished.

”We talk about it, there are signs up in the locker room,”

Winston said. ”There are all kinds of things, but it’s an industry

problem, too. They can put whatever they want in there. There’s no

regulation to it. Until there is something done about that, these

things are going to happen.”

Team owner Bob McNair had no comment on the suspension. Brown

had started all 34 games since he was drafted, and the timing of

his punishment could hardly be worse.

The Texans are aiming for their first 3-0 start and a validating

victory over the high-profile Cowboys, who still get most of the

attention in the state.

”You never want to have to deal with this too much,” Winston

said. ”But that’s the adversity we’re dealt right now, and we’re

just going to have to keep moving forward as a team. Everyone is

going to have to play better and just pick up the leftovers.”

The Texans reacquired tackle Ephraim Salaam after announcing

Brown’s punishment, according to Salaam’s agent, Joby Branyon. The

34-year-old Salaam played for Houston in 2006-08.

”It feels good to be home,” Salaam told KRIV-TV. ”I plan to

bring some veteran leadership. You always want to have guys who

have been through the fires.”

Brown has the crucial role of protecting the blind side of

Texans quarterback Matt Schaub. Brown held his own in a

season-opening battle with Colts All-Pro end Dwight Freeney. Rashad

Butler, in his fifth season, will make his first career start in

Brown’s place on Sunday.

”I feel sad and disappointed to hear about Duane and his

situation,” Butler told KRIV-TV. ”I know Duane will serve his

four-game suspension and will come back even more hungry than

before.

”The team has to go on,” Butler said. ”Coach (Gary) Kubiak

and (offensive line coach) John Benton have given me a great

opportunity to fill his shoes.”

Butler played in all 16 games last season and the first two of

2010.

”Rashad’s a good player. He wouldn’t be on this team if he

wasn’t,” Winston said. ”He’s very capable, and he’s probably

looking forward to the chance to go out and play, and play

well.”

The Texans have gotten by so far without Cushing, the star

linebacker who was suspended for four games for the same

infraction. He is eligible to return Oct. 10, when Houston hosts

the New York Giants.

Cushing, last year’s Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the

Year, was suspended in May for testing positive for HCG, a

fertility drug that is on the NFL’s banned substances list.

Cushing met with several doctors over the summer, and said some

concluded that his positive test resulted from overtraining. McNair

met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in New York to plead his

case, but the league upheld Cushing’s suspension.