Daryl Washington suspended 4 games for violating NFL substance abuse policy

USA TODAY Sports

A day after the news that they had acquired their starting quarterback, the Cardinals find out they will be without one of their top defensive players. How will they move forward?

Daryl Washington was one of the most valuable players in the NFL last season, as the third-year linebacker accumulated 140 tackles, nine sacks, one interceptions, and two forced fumbles for the Arizona Cardinals. If he wants to match those totals in 2013 however, he will likely have to do it in only a fraction of a full season, since Washington has been suspended for the first four games of the season due to violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Washington, a second-team AP All-Pro selection in 2012, released a statement on Wednesday, taking "full responsibility":

"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."

The Cardinals have already had a busy offseason as they look to improve from a 5-11 finish last season, having replaced head coach Ken Whisenhunt with Bruce Arians, letting Washington's defensive coordinator Ray Horton leave for Cleveland, and releasing quarterbacks Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, while trading with the Oakland Raiders for veteran signal-caller Carson Palmer. All of which comes before picking seventh overall in the upcoming NFL draft.

It could have all been signaling toward dramatic improvement in 2013, especially with one of the league's most underrated defenses, but the loss of Washington for four games will be significant. Given how well he performed last season, it might be the most crucial offseason news of all.

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