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Brian Cushing relishes the competition at camp

Brian Cushing enters year number nine as a pro with the same simple motivator as always.

"Just the love of the game," the inside linebacker said Saturday. "It's a competitive atmosphere and it might be the most competitive business on earth."

Cushing, a first-round pick of the Texans in 2009, is excited about the promise of the 2017 defense. His head coach Bill O'Brien, is glad Cushing is still an important cog in the middle.

"He's the heart and soul, like I say, of our defense," O'Brien said. "Middle linebacker, tackler, tough guy, leader on the team. He's a leader, he does a lot for us and just expecting him to have his usual tough training camp."

For Cushing, the franchise's leader in career tackles, hearing those words is special.

"It means a lot," Cushing said. "I love hearing that. It's something that's earned over many years and something that I really, really wake up every single day and enjoy hearing that and take full responsibility of."

The 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and 2011 Team MVP said the desire to be great is a constant on the current club.

"It's just an extremely competitive atmosphere that you have to bring your best game every single day, no matter if it's a Saturday practice or a Sunday game or whatever it is," Cushing said. "You have to be on top of your game at all times."

He and the Texans are off on Sunday, but will practice again on Monday at The Greenbrier in West Virginia. Their first preseason game is Wednesday night in Charlotte against the Panthers.

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