Bears OLB Lamarr Houston ready for comeback from second torn ACL

Lamarr Houston has been written off before.

In 2014, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while celebrating a garbage-time sack with an emphatic pelvic thrust. Two weeks into last season, he tore the ACL in his left knee.

In between, the Bears installed a 3-4 defense and switched him from defensive end to outside linebacker.

Houston’s salary wasn’t guaranteed last season and isn’t guaranteed this season, either. That makes his presence on the team seem
unlikely. But here he is, still around.

Outside linebacker Lamarr Houston said his knee recovery is going well. (AP)

‘‘For me, it’s an honor to play this game,’’ Houston said after one of the Bears’ organized team activities last week. ‘‘It’s not guaranteed.’’

That was apparent when he fell to the ground while rushing Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz last September. Less than two years after tearing the ACL in one knee, he hurt the other.

‘‘Instantly, I knew,’’ Houston said. ‘‘But it’s something I’m going to overcome, something I’m going to overcome and come back from.

‘‘Things happen. This game is a very high-impact game. You can’t get frustrated. Anything can happen any day — it can be practice, it can be in the game. You’ve just gotta keep on dealing with it and work and try to get past it.’’

The Bears think Houston still can be a pass-rushing threat three seasons after then-general manager Phil Emery signed him to a five-year, $35 million contract. They signaled that by not signing or drafting any significant outside linebackers this offseason.

After rehabbing in New York during the offseason, Houston has participated in OTAs. He said his recovery is on schedule, though he hesitated to predict when he would be at full strength.

‘‘All you can do is work day by day and try to get better,’’ he said. ‘‘I work to be impactful, and I work to be the best at what I do.’’

Outside linebacker Willie Young, for one, can’t imagine how he would have handled tearing both his ACLs in a span of three seasons.

‘‘That says a lot about who he is as a man, and it says a lot about what this game means to him,’’ Young said. ‘‘It doesn’t get any tougher than that. Anything he deals with from this point on is going to be a cakewalk.’’

Not that Houston is a mere sympathy case. Before playing only 32 snaps last season, he had eight sacks in 2015, his first season at his new position.

‘‘He’s a guy that knows how to get to the quarterback,’’ Young said. ‘‘I know the way he prepares; his work ethic speaks for itself. It’s no question about whether or not he has what it takes to be a professional at this level. I have no doubt in my mind [he’ll] bounce back.’’

If he does, the Bears will have three veteran edge rushers — Houston, Young and Pernell McPhee, all 28 or older — to accompany second-year man Leonard Floyd.

Houston praised general manager Ryan Pace for the ‘‘complementary pieces’’ he added in the spring and said the outside linebackers should help the Bears improve on their 3-13 record in 2016.

‘‘It’s been rough here the last couple of years, but I think we’re going to be heading in the right direction this year,’’ Houston said.

Only two teams had rookies play more snaps than the Bears did last season. Those young players can learn from Houston’s experience — in good times and bad.

‘‘Help them see the big picture and understand what’s going on,’’ Houston said. ‘‘Try to help them play faster and understand where they fit and how things work and what their role is.

‘‘I think I’m going to bring a lot of wisdom — a lot of wisdom.’’

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

 

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