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Cushing, Curry form intriguing storyline


Both Brian Cushing and Aaron Curry became instant starters for their respective teams.

The usual custom is that rookies come humbly into the NFL, sing their school fight songs off key and carry the veterans' equipment. They are supposed to wait patiently for playing time and be grateful just to get a special teams assignment.

Then again, consider Brian Cushing and Aaron Curry.

Cushing hardly had time to warble the USC song before assuming a starting outside linebacker spot with the Texans. It was the same for Curry. He walked into the Seahawks camp after an outstanding college career at Wake Forest and grabbed the starting outside linebacker spot.

These guys came pre-packaged for immediate action.

They'll be on the same field Sunday when the Texans host the Seahawks at Reliant Stadium. Seattle is seeking its third victory in a row. The spiraling Texans have lost four consecutive games.

{QUOTE}Because Curry was the fourth player chosen in the first round and Cushing was 15th, fans will be looking to see who performs best on Sunday. Cushing and Curry don't see it that way.

"I don't, but that's something in the back of my mind," Cushing said. "I know that Aaron was drafted higher. My main goal is going out and helping the team as best as I can. He's a versatile linebacker. I met him a couple of times at combines and the draft. He's very dedicated to the game."

Cushing sat in the waiting room at Radio City Music Hall long after the Seahawks had chosen Curry last April. He'll never forget it.

"I didn't understand it, but us three linebackers at USC being on the same team, (we) kind of took away from each other a little bit instead of one guy being spotlighted on a team," Cushing said. "There's no question he's (Curry) a great football player."

Cushing was part of an elite linebacking corps at USC that also included Clay Matthews (26th pick in the first round by the Packers), Rey Maualuga (second round by the Bengals) and Kaluka Maiava (fourth round by the Browns).

Curry was asked about lining up across the field from Cushing this weekend.

"I think he's an amazing, athletic linebacker," Curry said. "He's playing very well for the Texans, and I just hope he continues to play with that same fire and relentlessness that you see in him on film.

"There is definitely going to be some competition between our two teams on Sunday. I wouldn't say I'm going out every Sunday to be better than Brian Cushing. He's not playing just to be better than Aaron Curry. We both go out and play the game we love playing to help our team win."

Cushing has better stats through 12 games. He has 102 total tackles and has led the Texans in tackles nine of their 12 games. His total is second in the AFC and fifth among NFL tacklers. He leads all rookie tacklers and has a team-high three interceptions and 1.5 sacks.

"I'm going 100 percent and 100 miles per hour," Cushing said. "It's just football. I'm looking forward to that Sunday game to go out there to prove to myself and prove to our team what we're all about."

Cushing wants to win games and if personal honors follow, he won't refuse any awards, like defensive rookie of the year.

"It's special, I'm not going to deny it," Cushing said. "I want to be the best defensive rookie in football. That's something I have a lot of pride for but winning comes first."

And the Pro Bowl?

"It's my first year and I'm unfamiliar with a lot of things," he said. "There are a lot of talented guys in the NFL."

Curry has 56 total tackles, two sacks and six passes defensed. He hasn't felt added scrutiny because of his lofty draft status.

"I know what I got myself into as being the first 'backer taken and being drafted so high," Curry said. "I knew that and put myself in the shoes of the average Joe and got back to what I know best and that's hard work and being focused on being successful."

Curry's performance dipped a few weeks back, causing suggestions he'd hit the rookie wall.

"It's definitely had its ups and downs," Curry said. "It's not the smoothest ride I've ever taken. I've had a lot of fun so far. A few weeks back, they claimed I'd hit the wall. I wasn't on the up, I was on the down or leveled out. There have been some rough times in our seasons and the key is to figure how to bounce back and bust through the wall.

"I'm actually feeling rather fresh. I feel like I've got my second wind."

Cushing has played strong all season. He's played much of the season with a foot injury and still performed at a high level. The toughest part has been the losing.

"I've never lost seven games before," Cushing said. "You have to keep your routine. Stay on top of things, don't let things get to you mentally or physically. There are four games left and I want to have my best four games of the season."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky., Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro teams.

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