The last time inside linebackers Brian Cushing and Darryl Sharpton took the field together was October 30, 2011 against Jacksonville. Sharpton ended the 2011 season on injured reserve with a quadricep injury and began the 2012 season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. He returned about one month after Cushing suffered a season-ending ACL injury that landed him on IR.
Sharpton, who participated in OTAs this offseason, suffered a groin injury while working out that landed him on the Active/Non-Football Injury list just before the start of training camp. That injury kept him sidelined for the first eight days of camp. On Sunday Sharpton arrived at practice ready to play and has been moved to the active roster.
"It's great," Sharpton said of his first day back. "I think I'm a pretty good competitor. I love fighting through the heat, getting on these pads, smashing, banging and running. I love playing football and I'm just so happy to be back out here."
Sharpton's teammates were also happy to have the fourth-year veteran back on the field.
"It's nice to have him out there," said J.J. Watt. "He delivered quite a blow today on one play at least and he's fun to watch. He's fun to watch; the guy can lay some hits."
Six-year veteran Joe Mays, signed by the Texans last week in free agency, is battling with Sharpton for a starting role. Mays complimented Sharpton's hard and fast style of play in his training camp debut.
"We are definitely going to come out each and every day like we are playing a game and it is going to make us work harder," Mays said of the competition with Sharpton. "I like what I see. He plays fast. He plays hard and he does everything the right way. It's definitely going to be great competition with him and I think he feels the same way."
Cushing Close to Full Participation*
Cushing, who missed all of OTAs due to his ACL injury, was cleared by surgeon Dr. James Andrews in July. Now participating in individual and seven-on-seven drills, Cushing is expected to ramp up to regular team reps in practice in the next week.
"Yeah, he's basically a full-time participant now," Kubiak said of Cushing's role in camp. "We're going to keep him out of certain drills where we're doing a lot of contact. For the most part, he's a full-time participant."
"Cush is an unbelievable athlete," said Sharpton of his teammate. "He is a great leader on this team and it's good to be playing with Cush again."
With Cushing, Sharpton, Mays, and Dobbins healthy, the inside linebackers are closer to full strength as ever mere days before the start of preseason August 9 at Minnesota.
"This is a very dangerous sport, I can attest to that," said Sharpton. "We had a couple nicks and bruises, but we always find a way to get through it and we have good depth."