Washington, a former Pro-Bowler, has turned into one of the league's premier inside linebackers since getting drafted in the second round in 2010 out of TCU. He was suspended for the first four games of 2013 for a similar violation but still managed to be Pro Football Focus' third-best inside linebacker according to their grades. Only Seattle's Bobby Wagner and Patrick Willis graded higher.
"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.
This is big news for the San Francisco 49ers and the rest of the NFC West, as the Cardinals will be without one of their defensive anchors on a unit that emerged as one of the league's best in 2013. The team also lost standout Karlos Dansby to free agency when he signed a four-year $24 million deal with the Cleveland Browns. Dansby led the team in tackles last season with 114.
Friday's news means the Cardinals will be without their two starting inside linebackers from last season on a defense that ranked sixth in both scoring and yardage. Arizona finished 10-6 in arguably the NFL's toughest division, but still missed the postseason. By adding safety Deone Bucannon in the draft and corner Antonio Cromartie via free agency, the Cardinals were expecting another big year defensively.
"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," said Keim in the release.
Washington was also facing another potential suspension for an arrest in May 2013 for an incident with an ex-girlfriend where he faces two aggravated assault charges. He pleaded guilty to those charges in March and was sentenced a year of supervised probation in April.
In March the Cardinals exercised a $10 million option to keep Washington on the roster. The team will presumably rely on third-year player Kevin Minter to step in in Washington's absence alongside veteran Larry Foote, who signed a one-year contract after spending 11 of his last 12 seasons with the Steelers.
In eight career games against the 49ers, Washington has notched 36 tackles and three sacks, tied for the second-most against any opponent.
The Associated Press Contributed to this report.
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