His return was a welcome sight.
Brian Cushing was back in pads, on the field with his teammates, for the first time since a knee injury at Kansas City last October submarined his season.
Cushing was moved from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list to the active roster Wednesday morning, and his head coach Bill O'Brien explained why it was good to see the inside linebacker back at work.
"Here is a guy that's been a leader on this football team for a long time," O'Brien said. "He's coming off an injury and that is not always the easiest thing to do. He's been chomping at the bit to get back out there."
Cushing, the 2011 Team MVP and 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, practiced but wasn't able to take part in some of the more physical parts of the morning's work. But just being back in the mix was important.
"If I can get out here and go through some game-like situations and real-live speed stuff, that's going to help out a lot," Cushing said. "And on top of it, I'm giving my teammates confidence that I will be good to go."
Cushing will play the Mike spot as an inside linebacker in coordinator Romeo Crennel's defense. He's in charge of the play calls, and like a quarterback for that side of the ball. A constant presence in the weight room, training room and film room at NRG Stadium this offseason, the linebacker's mental edge never dulled.
"He's worked very hard, been a really good teammate in the meetings, been attentive," O'Brien said.
"I was watching a couple of their walkthroughs today and I thought he was really, really up to speed on the mental aspect of things. So it was good to see him out there."
Cushing said he has a good grasp on the playbook, but also stressed that it's one thing to read it, and another to play it.
"You can't really fully go into it and do it as best as you can until you actually see it, step through it, and be out there with your teammates," Cushing said. "I got some of that action today, so I'm happy about that."
He also said he was unsure about whether or not he'd play Saturday night against Atlanta, and was just "focusing on today" when it came to timetables for a return to action.