Lamarr Houston: Bears have ‘a lot to build on’

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Outside linebacker Lamarr Houston led the Bears in sacks last season. (AP)

After he completed his comeback season but before he went overseas to train — in Turkey, of all places — Lamarr Houston met with his Bears bosses.

“They were very happy what I did, and they were very impressed and pleased, especially coming off the [knee} surgery,” Houston said this week. “They were encouraged and they’re looking forward to next year — in starting to develop our game plan, to build throughout the offseason and have a final product at the beginning of the season.

“It’s really encouraging and exciting.”

Houston plans to be a part of it.

He couldn’t say if the Bears were in position to add another outside linebacker —be it in free agency, starting next week, or via next month’s draft — but said they shouldn’t have to.

Houston, who recorded a career-high eight sacks last season, said the combination of him, Willie Young and a healthy Pernell McPhee would dominate next season.

“Vets that are good are only going to be positive benefits to your team,” he said. “I would keep them around and if they’re very productive at a high level, I’d play those guys.”

The Bears owe him $5.95 million next season, but it’s not guaranteed. While they could move either Houston or Young, who is entering the final year of his contract, it wouldn’t be because of a salary cap crunch. The Bears have ample space.

The Broncos’ success has made edge rushers as valuable as ever. Parting with a solid one could be dangerous, particularly if the Bears would have to replace him at an inflated market price.

The Bears could be intrigued, too, by Houston’s success as he moves farther away from the October 2014 injury. Seven of his eight sacks came in the last nine weeks of last season, when his playing time increased, in part, because of McPhee’s knee injury.

After struggling to find the field earlier in the season, Houston played 237 of his 405 snaps in the team’s final six weeks. He finished the season as the Bears’ sacks leader despite playing only 40.5 percent of their defensive downs.

Houston moved to outside linebacker from defensive end last year after recovering from a right knee tear suffered while celebrating his only sack of 2014. He was only eight games into a five-year, $35 million deal.

The position switch wasn’t much of an adjustment — he was comfortable rushing from a standing position with the Raiders from 2010-13 — but it’s less of one now.

“I was happy to go back to what I thought I did very well anyways,” he said. “For me, I thought it was a great thing. I came off the injury, I was able to do something I felt comfortable doing.

“I was adjusting, I guess you could say, and now I feel more comfortable.”

He flew halfway across the world to make sure his body continued to feel that way.

After tasking his agent to scour the world for a place to train — he considered locations in France, Israel and Switzerland — he traveled to Antalya, on the Turkish Mediterranean coast, in January.

He trained at the Gloria Sports Arena alongside the Polish soccer team. Houston had his ligaments mapped and worked on core stabilization. He used a freezing-cold cryotherapy chamber, which was oddly refreshing.

Houston will spend the rest of the offseason in a slightly warmer place: Chicago.

“I think it’s exciting that we’ve got a lot to build on,” he said. “We’ve got great guys in my room, that are capable of producing at a high level.

“And I think this defense is going in the right direction. I think we finished the season strong, and we’re going to start the season strong.”

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley


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