Linebacker Brian Cushing expects to be cleared to play by Dr. James Andrews on July 17, nine days before the start of Texans training camp on July 26.
The Texans' defensive captain and 2011 MVP has been rehabbing from a torn ACL in his left knee. He was injured on Oct. 8 at the New York Jets, ending his 2012 season after five games.
"I'll be cleared July 17th," Cushing said Friday at Reliant Stadium. "I'll fly down to Pensacola and get cleared by Dr. Andrews, who was my surgeon for my knee. As far as camp goes, the first day, I'll be out there; I'll be in pads. As far as how much I'll do in camp, I'm not sure yet, but I know I will definitely be doing a good amount of it, try to get a preseason game in for sure, just knock some of that rust off and be 100 percent come the first game."
Cushing did not participate in OTAs and mini-camp, rehabbing with Texans trainers and injured teammates on a side field at the Methodist Training Center during the spring practices.
"Personally, I believe I probably could've done all that, but as we go further along and the time goes by, my knee is just getting healthier and healthier," Cushing said. "I've been doing pretty much all the work that they've been doing and obviously, a little bit more considering the time I've been in and really the time I haven't had off. I've been squatting, running, cutting jumping. There's absolutely nothing I haven't done, which is good, and just reassures me that there's no on-field situations that I haven't encountered already when I get back."
Entering his fifth season in the NFL, Cushing is understandably excited about getting back on the field after missing the final 11 games of 2012.
"I've been going crazy, to be honest with you," he said. "It's a game I love playing, and when it was taken away from me, a large part of my life was taken away from me. So it was tough to really deal with it and cope with the injury and on top of it, not be able to help the team. Just to come back, my life will be back to normal."
Cushing is encouraged by Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who tore his ACL and MCL in December 2011, recovered in time for the start of last season and won the NFL MVP award after rushing for a near-record 2,097 yards.
"It just shows you that it's possible," Cushing said. "It shows you that with hard work, you can come back as good, if not better. He's a special, special football player, and he's kind of paved the way for all of us now. It's going to be tough to match him, to come back and have the best year of my career yet, but it's something that I've worked towards. I'll have all the confidence in the world coming back because I know there won't be any more reps or any more time or work that I could have put in, because I left it all out there. When I come back, I know I'll be ready."