In 2013, the Arizona Cardinals fielded one of the NFL's best defenses on their way to a 10-6 record in the tough NFC West. The Cards missed the playoffs, but things looked very bright for that defense looking ahead to the 2014 season. Now, that outlook is not quite as positive, as two of defensive coordinator Todd Bowles' primary factors will not be playing for Arizona in 2014. Inside linebacker Karlos Dansby left for the Cleveland Browns in free agency, and fellow inside linebacker Daryl Washington could soon find that the long arm of the NFL law will prevent him from playing anywhere through the season. According to Mike Jurecki of FOX Sports Radio in Phoenix, Washington will be suspended for the entire 2014 campaign.
The NFL confirmed this report early Friday, saying that the suspension was actually for a violation of the Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. According to the league, Washington's suspension will last at least one year.
"It's completely unacceptable that Daryl has once again put us in this position," Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said in a statement. "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 had already been suspended for the first four games of the 2013 season for violations of the league's substance-abuse policies, and he pled guilty in May to charges relating to an assault on the mother of his child. Washington received one year of supervised probation. The assault charge will reportedly be dropped from a felony to a misdemeanor if Washington meets the conditions of his probation. If not, Washington could serve time in jail.
As reported by AZCentral.com, Washington was arrested on May 3 when he surrendered to police, two days after the victim told local authorities that he visited her at her Phoenix apartment. During the visit, per documents, Washington pushed her with both hands, causing her to fall and break her collarbone.
"I'm very remorseful for this incident," Washington said. "I will do everything in my power ... to be a better person and a better role model."
At the hearing, Judge Scott McCoy said that Washington was a candidate for probation because he had no criminal history and seemed genuinely sorry for what happened -- though McCoy also expressed concern that the child was present during the incident.
A year-long suspension for Washington would leave Kevin Minter and Larry Foote as the Cardinals' primary inside linebackers. Both are good players, but neither has the range that Dansby and Washington have shown. In 2013, Washington totaled 75 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions and 11 passes defensed. Washington was Pro Football Focus' 21st-ranked inside linebacker last year, while Dansby ranked fifth. Washington, a second-round pick of the Cardinals out of TCU in 2010, signed a six-year, $32.5 million contract extension in 2012.