The Texans’ 2011 MVP and defensive captain won’t participate in spring practices, but it sounds like he's well on his way to being "110 percent" by Week 1 of the regular season.
“I'm watching him today, he sure looks like he's ready to go,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Monday. “I know that it's not time to turn him loose yet, but he's come a long way. What'd he miss, 11 games last year plus two playoff games? You don’t get that time back in this league, so I know he’s chomping at the bit and ready to go.”
Cushing was injured on Oct. 8 in Week 5 at the New York Jets. The Texans were 4-0 at the time and had the NFL’s top-ranked defense. They finished with a 12-4 record and won a Wild Card game without Cushing, but their defense ranked 13th over the final 11 games and finished the season ranked seventh.
“Obviously, Cush is a great player,” Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “Anytime you lose a great player, it’s hard to replace ‘em. We had some guys that filled in and did a good job last year and won some games, but it’s still a star player. It’s great to have him back. I think he’s progressing well. He’s gonna be ready.”
The 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and a second-team All-Pro in 2011, Cushing has 353 tackles, 9.5 sacks, seven interceptions and six forced fumbles in 49 career games. Perhaps just as important as his production is his fanatical, relentless playing style and the effect it has on his teammates.
“He’s an outstanding player, but he’s outstanding off the field by getting himself ready to play,” Phillips said. “He’s a great leader, too. He leads by example. We said when we first got here (in 2011), ‘Hey, if you guys will play as hard as Cushing does, we'll win.’ He was our example of how hard you play, what it takes to play at a high level and tremendous effort. And a lot of guys did copy him, and it helped us.”