The League

Anthony Stalter
National Blogger

Anthony Stalter

Senior Sports Editor for The Scores Report

The pressure to perform


Have you ever wanted something so bad that you went outside yourself in order to have it? You wanted it so much that you put aside your morals, shut off your conscious and ignored right from wrong?

Want to know why Barry Bonds (allegedly) took steroids? It's not because he wanted to hit more home runs or break Hank Aaron's illustrious record. It's because he knew if he took them, he could play longer. He knew they would prolong his career and if that happened, then he could place himself among the many baseball legends that came before him.

Bonds wanted to be known as the greatest baseball player to have ever walked the earth. That's why he took steroids. He didn't care about the how - he just wanted the end result. He wanted to be a legend so bad that he sacrificed his morals (whatever morals he had) and actually convinced himself that what he was doing was right. He knew his body was breaking down and he hadn't accomplished what he wanted to yet. So he took them and in the end, well, we all know how that turned out.

I don't know if similar thoughts went through Brian Cushing's head before he decided to use performance-enhancers, but I can guarantee you it's all relative. There's a disturbing trend starting to take place in the NFL and Cushing's four-game suspension only brings the situation closer to the surface.

This was the third time in the past nine years that the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year has been suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Julius Peppers came first in 2002, then Shawne Merriman in 2005 and now Cushing in 2010. Why is it that three defensive players have been busted? What makes rookies or young athletes that play the defensive line/linebacker positions more apt to take performance-enhancing drugs than offensive lineman, running backs or defensive backs?

Let's start from scratch. Why would any player, regardless of what position he plays, want to take PEDs? Because if used properly, they can make you stronger, faster and will allow you to heal faster. So why would defenders feel as though they need them more than other players?

I'm not excusing a player (any player) for taking steroids, but have you ever tried to bulk up and shed fat at the same time? It's like trying to catch two rabbits at the same time. And what usually happens is that you wind up going around in circles until you finally give up. The same thought process could be applied to defenders in the NFL.

Imagine having to take on blocks from a 325-pound lineman and still have enough speed, strength and agility to make a tackle or cover a running back out of the backfield. Linebackers can't carry the weight of an offensive lineman because they have to be able to move, yet they're expected to be just as strong. Many of them are counted on to be effective in coverage, too.

For defensive ends like Peppers, they learn rather quickly that the moves they used in college don't work in the NFL. They essentially have to learn an entirely new position when they're drafted and that's why it usually takes them until their third or even fourth year to be successful. With that in mind, it stands to reason that Pep felt he could speed up the process and that's why he used. That's just speculation on my part, but it makes sense.

Of course, it might be simpler than that. When young players enter the league, most of them want to be successful and to be viewed as a star. They want to make an impact right away and maybe Cushing felt as though in order to do that, he needed the help of PEDs. He wanted to be important so bad that he went outside himself in order to achieve his goals. He put aside his morals, shut off his conscious and ignored the fact that he knew right from wrong.

Have you ever wanted something so bad that you were willing to do something similar? We're all human and sometimes we as humans get too wrapped up in the want that we choose to ignore the how.

Again, I'm not excusing what Cushing did, but I think it's more important to shed light on this topic instead of labeling him a cheater and moving on. Should he lose his ROY award? I wouldn't blame the AP for stripping the trophy in wake of the decision he made. But keep in mind that NFL rules state that a player cannot receive any league honors or awards in the same season that he is notified and suspended for an infraction. Seeing as how Cushing wasn't suspended until now, the award should probably stay in his possession. Rules are rules, after all.

That said, whether the award is stripped from him or not, let's hope the next rookie that thinks about using PEDs will look at this situation and make a wiser decision. The desire to succeed in the NFL will always be there for young players, but they need to rely on their God-given talents and not enlist the help of drugs.

By Anthony Stalter  |  May 12, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Houston Texans , NFL , NFL Rules , Steroids Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Interesting take on the situation...makes you think.

Posted by: KMac3000 | May 17, 2010 11:19 PM

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