Cushing, the 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, can practice with the team and play in preseason games. However, he will miss regular-season contests against the Indianapolis Colts (home), Washington Redskins (road), Dallas Cowboys (home) and Oakland Raiders (road). He'll be eligible to return for an Oct. 10 home game against the New York Giants.
Kevin Bentley is the backup at outside linebacker, but the Houston Chronicle reported that Zac Diles will move from the weak side to replace Cushing for four games. Xavier Adibi, a third-year veteran, or Darryl Sharpton, a fourth-round draft pick out of Miami, will take Diles' spot.
"We were disappointed to learn that Brian has been suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season," Texans general manager Rick Smith said in a statement released by the team. "Brian is a productive member of our team and this is a significant loss, but we have to be prepared to win without him."
Cushing was hounded by rumors of steroid use before he became a pro, but the Texans were undeterred and drafted him 15th overall last year. They said then that they found no truth to those rumors during their draft preparations, and Cushing strongly denied at the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine that he had used performance-enhancers.
"I don't understand where it is coming from," Cushing told NFL.com. "I was tested last December at USC and passed, one of several tests I have passed. I was tested this morning here at the combine and those results should be out in a couple of weeks to a month, I believe. I think people are trying to find something, anything, that would detract from what I have done on the field. You learn in life if it's not one thing, it's the other. I hope once I pass the test here that this will be put behind me. I'm really hoping for that."
Cushing had promoted a Friday night appearance on NFL Network's NFL Total Access on his Facebook page before posting the following message Friday afternoon: "Had to cancel NFL Network and all other interviews due to a family emergency. Heading to airport to fly back to NJ to be with the fam."
Cushing didn't provide any further details about the emergency. He's from New Jersey and had been in school in California this week.
Cushing posted 134 tackles, four sacks, four interceptions and two forced fumbles while helping Houston go 9-7 -- the first winning record in franchise history. He was a runaway winner over Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd in NFL Defensive Player of the Year balloting. However, Bills safety Donte Whitner suggested Friday on Twitter that the honor be stripped from Cushing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.