KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The past two seasons proved lost years in many ways for Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston, with a balky left knee stalling his pursuit of opposing quarterbacks and robbing him of a full season’s worth of games.
But for the first time in a long time, Houston feels ready to return to the All-Pro form that allowed him to collect 22 sacks just three seasons ago.
“I feel great now,” Houston said. “Last year I couldn’t even run at this time so it’s night and day difference. I feel great. To be able to just get up and go without even thinking about it.”
Houston’s struggles with the knee date back to the team’s playoff game against Indianapolis in January 2014. Houston torn the PCL in the knee but recovered fully for the 2014 season when he posted his best-career season.
Knee troubles returned in week 12 of the 2015 when Houston sustained what the team confirmed as a hyperextension. He missed the final five games of the regular season and appeared limited in playoff games against Houston and New England.
Houston underwent surgery on the ACL in the knee in the offseason and did not return to the field until week 11 against Tampa Bay. He later missed the final two games of the season.
At the start of the team’s mandatory minicamp, the seventh-year veteran says he feels better than he has for a long time.
“Like I’ve said before, the day I feel like I can’t get better is the day I’m going retire,” Houston said. “I know there’s plenty I can get better at and be more consistent every game and every play, and just continue to get better in all phases.”
Houston displayed a bit of rust on his first day practice, however. He allowed a certain interception to slip right through his hands after perfectly reading an Alex Smith pass as he dropped back in coverage.
The 28-year-old linebacker dropped to the ground and performed 10 push-ups, the penalty for dropping an easy pick.
“If that happened in a game, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Houston said. “I’m going to get a flag acting fool. You can’t drop something that easy. You got to make a play like that.”