Cushing back for Texans after injury

Linebacker Brian Cushing had never dealt with a major injury
before and wasn’t sure how he’d handle missing Houston’s final 11
games after knee surgery last season.

Exactly a week later, he found motivation when his son Cayden
was born. When his rehabilitation got tough, his first thought was
the little boy who was born Oct. 15.

”I got a lot more to prove now,” Cushing said. ”I’ve got a
little boy that’s never seen me play football before. So obviously,
I want to play for a lot of years and show him who his dad
is.”

Cushing was back on the field for Houston’s first day of
training camp Friday and said he feels great. The Texans are taking
it slow with Cushing, but they hope he returns as the player he was
before the injury when he finished with 114 tackles and four sacks
in 2011.

”I’m going to ease myself back into it and we’ve got a pretty
good plan about how to go about this and to be smart,” Cushing
said. ”It’s a long camp and the most important thing is really
just to be 100 percent when we come out of it.”

The Texans started 5-0 last season behind a defense that was
dominant with both Cushing and defensive player of the year J.J.
Watt leading the way. Though Houston went on to finish 12-4 and win
its second straight AFC South title, some thought the unit never
played as well as it did with Cushing on the field.

”We missed him when he was out,” defensive coordinator Wade
Phillips said. ”We did a satisfactory job without him, but anytime
you lose a great player it’s going to hurt you some. And we’re glad
to have him back.”

Cushing wasn’t sure if the defense suffered without him last
season, but knows that his return will certainly be a boost. Beyond
Cushing, the Texans don’t have a ton of experience among their
linebackers.

”I definitely think I can help the defense and I want to be
back,” Cushing said. ”I think I add a lot to this team,
personally. But, I’m not sure if it’s a direct correlation, but all
I know is I think we’ll be a better team when I’m back. That’s just
the kind of confidence I have and I think that I can bring a lot to
this team.”

Coach Gary Kubiak broke into a huge grin on Friday when asked
how nice it was to hear Cushing barking out commands to the rest of
the defense again. Cushing, who was the defensive rookie of the
year in 2009, has had more than 110 tackles in the two seasons
where he played each game.

His other abbreviated season came when he was suspended for the
first four games of the 2010 season for violating the NFL’s policy
on performance-enhancing substances and finished with 76
tackles.

”He’s the emotional leader of this team,” Kubiak said. ”What
he went through last year and having to watch us play for the next
three months was very difficult on him. He’s got some ground to
make up; he knows that. But I’m looking forward to watching him do
it because I know he’s on a mission.”

He’s eager to share his experience with Houston’s young
linebackers, especially rookie third-round pick Sam Montgomery, to
help them navigate the often confusing world of the NFL.

”It’s my fifth year and I’ve been through a good amount of
football and I’ve seen a lot of things in the NFL, even off the
field there’s a lot of things I can help them with,” Cushing said.
”As a rookie, you really don’t know much. You think you know
everything but it’s a crazy process, it’s a crazy business. There
are a lot of things you never would expect and they happen.”