HOUSTON -- Linebacker Brian Cushing never had 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.