It's no surprise that Texans coach Gary Kubiak raved about Brian Cushing's conditioning level after his first practice on Wednesday.
Before returning to Houston from his four-game suspension, Cushing was training like crazy in New Jersey to get ready for this week's game against the New York Giants.
"I know what he's been doing for the past four weeks when nobody's been watching, and it's like a man possessed with a huge point to prove," said Joe DeFranco, who trained Cushing during his suspension in Wyckoff, N.J. "I think he's going to put on quite a show for all the Texans fans on Sunday because he's ready to get back on the field and prove that not only is he the same Brian Cushing from before the suspension, but you're going to see a better Brian Cushing than before the suspension."
During his suspension, Cushing stayed at his parents' house in Park Ridge, N.J. DeFranco, who has been training Cushing since high school, spent as much time with the 23-year-old linebacker as anybody over the past month.
"People forget he's a pro athlete, but he's a young kid," DeFranco said. "To be a young kid thrown in the spotlight and basically have to read and hear people talk about your situation like it's fact when 99 percent of the things that I've read are completely untrue, it's devastating.
"The thing that Cush has done well and was very mature of him to get through this was surrounding himself with his close family members and friends. He surrounded himself with people who know the real Brian Cushing. He kind of put himself in seclusion.
"He's just focused on worrying about the things that he can control, and that's doing what he's done his entire life which is basically proving people wrong. Whenever the chips are down or things aren't going his way or he gets accused of doing something he didn't do, Brian Cushing, instead of complaining, works harder than he did before, which is pretty hard, and then he goes and he just silences the critics.
"He's done it time and time again, and I think that's why I'm more excited about this Sunday than I've been for any game I've watched in my entire life, because it's just another example of Cush having the chips down and having people talking about him and having people wanting to see him fail."
Not only is this Cushing's first game back from suspension, it's a game against his hometown team, the New York Giants. The game will be televised in front of people from his area who have seen the reports about Cushing but have not seen him play in years, and he's well aware of that fact. He's also close friends with Giants left tackle David Diehl, who trains with DeFranco, and Giants receiver Steve Smith and cornerback Terrell Thomas, who were his teammates at USC.
To top it off, Cushing will have about a dozen of his closest family members and friends at the game. Several of them, including DeFranco, will be watching him play with the Texans in person for the first time.
"People want to have that excuse to say, 'He's a different player, he's not the same guy, he's not as big, he's not as strong, he's not as fast,' and I think Sunday we're going to watch Brian Cushing prove everybody wrong once again in his career," DeFranco said. "It's probably not going to have to be the last time, but it's a big one this time."