HOUSTON -- About three games into his rookie season in 2009, Texans inside linebacker Brian Cushing started to notice a delightful phenomenon.
He had the power to intimidate opponents.
"It's kind of a thing players thrive off, that intimidating factor," Cushing said. "When a quarterback's calling your name out every play to get help and double team you. it's kind of a sense of everything you've worked for and a build-up of all the hard work you've put in. Other teams are showing you that kind of respect. I look forward to that."
That feeling has been missing from Cushing's life for much too long for his liking. But now he's closer than ever to having it back. This week, Cushing spent his time on the field going through every possible situation he might in a game, putting his knee through some final personal tests.
The results were exactly what he wanted. The emotional leader of the Texans' defense is fully recovered from his torn ACL.
"Knowing I can hit, run, cover, do everything, I'm doing full team periods with full pads," Cushing said. "I'm fine. I feel normal."
He even showed off his knee's stability this morning, cutting with ease and juking defenders while playing the role of a fullback at one point in practice.
Cushing doesn't expect to play on Friday when the Texans travel to Minnesota for their preseason opener. He should be among the group of veterans that coach Gary Kubiak leaves home, not wanting to aggravate their joints on turf. He is expecting to play the following week when the Texans host the Dolphins.
As anxious as Cushing is to play again, the pent-up aggression that will come with his return is something his teammates can't wait to see.
"I’m expecting it," Kubiak said with a slight smirk.
"I know exactly where he's coming from," tight end Owen Daniels said. "As much time as he's missed, doesn't matter how much football you've played in your life before, if you have an injury like that and you have to miss time and be away from your teammates on the field, it's tough to deal with. All it takes is one hit to bring you back to where you were before."
Cushing didn't use an aggressive word when asked how he'll feel making his first hit in a regular season game when the Texans open the season on Monday Night Football in San Diego. Instead he said he would feel relieved.
"It's going to be getting back to normal for me and playing football again," he said. "... Especially on a big stage like Monday night, to show that I'm back. Very exciting. I'm playing football again, and a couple months ago I was laid up in bed needing help to do everything."