A year ago, Lamarr Houston was optimistic he could not only repeat his eight-sack 2015 season, but improve that total in his second season playing outside linebacker in Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense.
The torn ACL that cost Houston all but two games in 2016 (he also tore his ACL celebrating a sack in 2014) hasn’t changed the 30-year-old’s outlook on his future with the Bears, though. Heading into his second preseason game Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, Houston feels his arrow is still pointing up.
“I believe I am (on track),” Houston said. “I think I’m on pace to have a good year and I think everything’s lining up and I’m making progress in the right direction.”
Houston played 17 snaps last weekend against the Arizona Cardinals, his first game action since tearing his ACL against the Philadelphia Eagles last September. He recorded a hurry last weekend, but more than anything else, Houston relished being back on the field for a game again.
“It just felt like a blessing,” Houston said. “I couldn’t really describe the feeling of being back on the field during a game and hearing the national anthem and hearing everything go off, fireworks, seeing people called out.”
Houston has answered questions about his health and readiness for Week 1, but there’s still a bigger question for the Texas product: Will he be part of the Bears’ 53-man roster?
Houston’s cap hit — nearly $7 million, according to Spotrac — is high, and the Bears could cut him for a little under $2 million (also via Spotrac). But with Pernell McPhee still on the PUP list, Houston could provide important depth at outside linebacker alongside Willie Young and Leonard Floyd.
From what coach John Fox said, too, the Bears have liked what they’ve seen from Houston over the last month, which would seem to be good news for his shot at making the roster.
“He's had a couple of injuries, one before we got here and then one last year that takes a lot of blood, sweat and tars to fight through so I have great respect for him that way, how he's handled coming back this season and what he's put on tape so far,” Fox said. “Obviously we're happy to have him back.”
If Houston indeed is still here on Sept. 10, he feels like he can be part of a defense that's optimistic about its chances of success in 2017.
"There’s opportunity for us to be very good," Houston said. "... I think we can look very intimidating and very imposing."