HOUSTON (AP) – Brian Cushing has always tried to be a leader for the Houston Texans.
That role is undisputed for the linebacker now that defensive stalwarts DeMeco Ryans and Mario Williams are gone.
“There are a lot more eyes looking at you now and that’s fine,” Cushing said. “I learned from some of the best guys and they taught me a lot. It’s something I accept and going into this year I could say it was pushed on me, but it was also earned. So I feel good about it.”
Cushing was drafted in the first round in 2009 and piled up 133 tackles to earn the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Instead of building on the momentum gained from his terrific first season, Cushing was suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances and had 76 tackles.
Last year was a bounce-back campaign for him, and he led the team with 114 tackles and had four sacks, two interceptions and forced two fumbles. His statistics far surpassed those of Ryans, a fellow linebacker who had 64 tackles, but the more veteran Ryans remained the most visible leader of the defense.