By Chris Emma—
(670 The Score) Somewhere along his winding road, Lamarr Houston learned that sacks are a blessing. So are opportunities, often fleeting in football.
Once viewed as an impact defensive player, Houston has been released twice this season. It opened his eyes to a different reality in this league. Another opportunity arose with the Bears, as he was claimed off waivers in late November, something he embraced.
Back in a Bears uniform three weeks ago, Houston sacked a familiar foe in Jimmy Garoppolo and savored the moment. Sure enough, he followed through with four sacks in his first three games back with Chicago.
“We’re fortunate he was available,” Bears coach John Fox said.
Houston, 30, was unceremoniously released by the Bears in early September with an injury designation after suffering a knee injury in the final preseason game. That he was still playing in the second half of the fourth preseason game was surprising, though Houston was lucky the injury wasn’t severe.
One month later, Houston signed with the Texans. He recorded a sack and later returned a fumble for a touchdown but was released after just five games. With Leonard Floyd, Willie Young and Isaiah Irving all on injured reserve, the Bears then claimed Houston off waivers and welcomed back a familiar face.
“This league’s a different league than when I came in,” Houston said after re-joining the Bears. “You just thank God for the opportunities and try to capitalize on them. That’s all you can do.”
Houston signed with the Bears on a five-year deal worth up to $35 million in March 2014, with then-general manager Phil Emery adding an impact pass rusher at defensive end. After the Emery regime was fired from Halas Hall, the Bears shifted from a 4-3 front to a 3-4, with Houston shifting to outside linebacker.
Known as a terrific teammate, Houston has handled the turbulence of his Bears tenure with grace. He suffered a torn right ACL in October 2014 celebrating a sack of Garoppolo late in a blowout loss to the Patriots in New England. Though the infamous play is what Houston is unfortunately known for, he doesn’t dwell on it.
Houston came back in 2015 and led the Bears with eight sacks playing his first season at outside linebacker. He was poised to be a key part of the defense in 2016 but suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during the second regular-season game.
The recent timing of Houston’s availability was ideal for the Bears, who lacked a pass-rushing presence at outside linebacker. Once Irving suffered his season-ending injury, the Bears moved for Houston, who’s back in a key role.
With the sacks stacking up, Houston could earn himself a new contract with the Bears this offseason.
“What does he have, four sacks in the past (three) weeks?” Akiem Hicks said. “That. That’s what he adds.”