By Chris Emma–
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) — Misfortune in the often-cruel game of football has provided Bears linebacker Lamarr Houston with a new perspective.
In three seasons with the Bears, Houston has seen two head coaches and general managers, played two positions and suffered serious knee injuries in 2014 and 2016 with a career year in between in 2015.
He doesn’t dwell on the past. Oh, and about that perspective?
“I’m enjoying smelling the grass,” Houston said Tuesday at OTAs, “putting on the cleats, wearing the helmet, being around my guys, hearing the whistle blow, seeing the ball snapped. It’s beautiful, it’s refreshing.”
Houston, 29, is headed into his fourth season of a five-year, $35-million deal that he received from then-general manager Phil Emery in 2014. He was a prized pickup for the Bears, a dynamic defensive end fit for their 4-3 defense. Then came that torn ACL in October 2014, suffered infamously while celebrating sack down 48-23 to the Patriots. It was an embarrassing blunder.
But Houston has remained with the Bears because general manager Ryan Pace saw how effective he could be as a 3-4 edge rusher. Coming off the edge, Houston led the team with eight sacks in 2015 after working his way back from the injury.
Now, he has to do it again after suffering a torn ACL in the second game of the 2016 season. Houston is right on schedule in the recovery, he said. During OTAs, he wears a red jersey and works in a limited fashion. The hope is that he will be ready for training camp with no restrictions.
“The glass is always half full,” Houston said. “That’s just how I am. There’s always work to be done and things to be accomplished.
“I’m just grateful that I get another opportunity.”
While Pace has rid the roster of most Emery players, Houston has remained. NFL executives know well you can never have enough pass rushers.
As for Houston, he has remained upbeat during these difficult years in Chicago. That’s no easy task after adjusting to a new position, scheme and regime. Has he considered demanding a trade?
“I’m just here to play football,” Houston replied. “I don’t get into that stuff at all. If I’m here, I’m here. If I’m not, I’m not.”
Houston is set to rotate at outside linebacker this season, joining a mix that includes Leonard Floyd, Pernell McPhee and Willie Young. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio manages to keep each rusher fresh and utilize their strengths with situations.
The details surrounding his place with the Bears don’t bother Houston, who keeps his head up amid adversity. He’s ready for what’s next.
“I feel refreshed,” he said. “I’m very excited about the upcoming season. I’m looking to make an impact and get this thing rolling in the right direction.”