The bulk of the last year has seen Brian Cushing attack his knee rehabilitation process. After surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, Cushing was quickly back on the comeback trail. It was no surprise to anyone who knows the linebacker. Especially general manager Rick Smith.* *
"He's shown us that we can count on him," Smith said Wednesday. "He's shown us the work ethic that he has. He's shown us, throughout the course of his rehab process, that he was committed to returning to actually being better than he was before. So I was confident in that and very comfortable with that as I watched him continue to do the things that he's done to earn that trust."
Cushing signed a six-year contract extension with the Texans on Wednesday. During the press conference at Reliant Stadium announcing the deal, he and Smith shared about the rehab
process. That process included the defensive captain sending Smith photos and videos of various exercises his surgically repaired knee was able to endure.
"I would try to squat and box jump and show all those kind of things," Cushing said. "I wanted to just improve upon that every single week. Every time I set a new goal I would send it him and just let him know I'm coming back."
The Texans general manager is "pretty involved in all" of the team's medical decisions and rehab protocols, and acknowledged that he "spent a little extra time" staying abreast of Cushing's situation. "Trust me, I knew every rep," Smith said. "I knew every exercise. I knew what he was doing and we followed it pretty closely.
Watching his teammates progress through what would become a 12-win regular season, and two-game stay in the playoffs, was hard on Cushing.
"It was a very dark time," Cushing said. "Any previous injury before that was maybe missing a game or two and, now, having the season taken away from me, watching the guys go out to practice every day and not being able to contribute, was a helpless feeling."
That helplessness, Cushing said, helped spur him on during the rehab process. He also said it "definitely" made him stronger.