All-Pro linebacker Brian Cushing is pleased with the latest addition to the linebacker corp and the progress of the young players at training camp. With the Texans' latest free agent signing, six-year veteran Joe Mays, the inside linebacker position gains some much needed depth.
"I think it's a position that obviously we can always have more depth and he's a very good player," said Cushing on Tuesday." I think he's obviously going to add some depth to our linebacking corp. I think he could potentially be a starter and he's a very good special teams player. So, I think anytime you do something like that, we obviously upgrade our team and our linebacker room."
Cushing is easing back into practice after being cleared from his ACL injury, suffered in last October's 23-17 win over the New York Jets. The Texans were feeling optimistic until starter Darryl Sharpton suffered a setback with a sore groin, keeping him out of camp this week. While he recovers, several young players are getting a chance to prove themselves on the field.
"That's just how football goes," Cushing said. "It's a very physical sport. You are going to have your injuries and when guys got hurt, the next guys have to step up and when they do, they are going to have their opportunities. You are going to see some guys that you never thought could have made the team, make the team. You see some guys you didn't know what they are all about and they are very good football players. It's a game about opportunities, especially in camp. There's going to be a lot of guys that get a lot more plays than usual."
A few of those young players seeing more playing time include inside linebackers Cameron Collins and Mike Mohamed. Collins (6-2, 246), an undrafted rookie from Oregon State, was signed by the Texans in November from their practice squad. Mike Mohamed (6-3, 243) was drafted in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL draft by Denver. He played just three games over two seasons and was released. The Texans signed Mohamed in January as a reserve/future agent. Cushing sees potential in the young talent with a big role to fill.
"I think they are good players," he said of Collins and Mohamed. "I think they are very solid, good players. They are smart. They are physical. They are tough. They came in and have done everything that we have asked them for. They have been impressive for sure."
The first day of open practice at Texans training camp was also the first day for players to wear the NFL's new regulation thigh pads. Under the new rule, all players except punters and kickers must wear thigh and knee pads or risk being asked to leave the game.
"Obviously, if you come out in the right equipment, it will never be an issue," he said of the new rule. "But if you want to tamper with it or try to push the rules, then you get taken out of the game for a little bit. It could definitely hurt the team so you just got to come out wearing the right stuff."
Some NFL players complained that the new pads hindered speed and performance. Wearing the new pads for the first time on the field today, Cushing said the new equipment was barely noticeable and not an issue for him.
"If anything, it's just mental," Cushing said regarding the controversy over new pads. "I think once you get past it, I haven't even been thinking about it since I put it on. This is the first time I have really realized it since you brought it up so it's not a big deal at all."
Pads or no pads, Cushing is ready to make his return to the football field after nine long months of rehab for his ACL injury. Once he returns, nothing will slow him down.
"I think the biggest thing is getting back healthy and playing the game the way I know how to which is just fast, physical, and relentless.