One-on-one with Brian Cushing

USC's fall camp is only 13 days away, starting up Aug. 4 and continuing for roughly four weeks before the Trojans' first game at Hawaii on Sept. 2.

But before USC's camp begins, NFL training camps will get going first. The Dallas Cowboys will be the first team to open camp -- Saturday, before heading to Oxnard, Calif., in mid-August for the second half of the summer. The Houston Texans -- and former USC linebacker Brian Cushing -- will begin camp a week from today.

We caught up with Cushing this week to talk over his expectations for the 2010 season and to get his thoughts on recent USC football progress.

Cushing did not answer any questions about the four-game suspension he accrued for his much-publicized violation of the NFL's performing-enhancing drug policy, but he will sit out the Texans' first four games and expects to make his season debut Oct. 10 against the New York Giants.

Here's the Q&A:

Pedro Moura: First, talk about earning Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowl honors last season and what they meant for you. Were either of them more important to you?

Brian Cushing: No, they were both pretty equally important. They both are the things you want to accomplish in your rookie year and some guys go their whole careers without going to the Pro Bowl and I was fortunate enough to do so in my rookie year and that was pretty amazing.

PM: You're in the midst of your first offseason as an NFL player. What kind of stuff have you been doing to continue improving?

BC: I am really trying to learn defense in general as much as possible. I am comfortable in my position in the Texan system and plan to return to the game as best as possible.

PM: Is your thought process any different now that you're established in the league, as opposed to last season when you were trying to find your way and your college years when you had an obvious goal in mind?

BC: My thought process is different because I now know what to expect but preparing and knowing what to do to stay the same.

PM: A variety of factors in your rookie season, like missing the preseason and practices during the season yet continuing to compete at a high level on Sundays, gave you the reputation as tough guy in the NFL — something I'd say is very similar to the reputation you had at USC. Is that quality of yours — playing hurt and all — something you're proud of in your career so far?

BC: Yes, no matter how you feel on Saturday or Sunday, regardless of any nicks or injuries you may have, when it’s time to represent for your team and for yourself you have to be ready to play.

PM: You, obviously, spent four years at USC and earned some pretty high accolades while you were there, like starting four Rose Bowls, being named a 2008 All-American...What are you most proud of accomplishing during your time as a Trojan?

BC: The fourth year winning the Pac-10 title was a huge accomplishment for a team. We got so much done in my years at USC and it’s something I’ll never forget.

PM: Is there something you wish you could have done?

BC: I would have liked to win a national championship our freshmen year, but we all learned from that experience and became better football players.

PM: Speaking of USC -- what thoughts do you have on the USC sanctions?

BC: I really think it’s unfortunate. A lot of kids are getting penalized for things they weren’t involved with and if it were any other school I don’t believe the punishment would have been so bad.

PM: How much do you keep up with relating to the Trojans?

BC: I am pretty current. I know what’s going on and pay attention to a lot of guys still there that I played with to see how everything is going. You never forget a place like that.

PM: Was an up-and-down 9-4 season in 2009 tough to swallow as a recent alumnus of the program?

BC: Yeah it was terrible. That wasn’t Trojan football. After leaving your mark on a program like USC’s and leaving the tradition behind it is going to be disappointing to see but I know they will be back where they need to be.

PM: Having played the Seahawks last year, you won't match up with your former coach Pete Carroll's team for a couple years barring a Super Bowl meeting between your two teams. Is playing them at some point in the future something you're looking forward to -- especially with all the former Trojans Carroll has signed to his squad since he became coach?

BC: Of course, not only that but also I always look forward to playing any team that passed me in the draft. Playing against coach will be a cool opportunity, he knows me and what kind of player I am and he’ll know what to expect, so that would be a great opportunity when I get to play in front of him.