Brian Cushing looking to prove himself

HOUSTON -- His return to the field Wednesday was huge, though perhaps to everyone except Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing himself.

Cushing called it a small step. He still sees a task ahead. And he thinks he has something to prove about what he can do.

Twice Cushing mentioned the idea. Once, he talked about gaining his teammates' confidence. Another time this: "You have a new staff and you kind of want to show them what you can do and what your value is to the team. That’s kind of been put on hold a little bit."

Here's a man who, when healthy, is one of the best middle linebackers in the NFL. Why does he feel he has anything to prove? That's just who he is.

"I don’t know if I have to prove who I am for them or for myself," Cushing said. "I’m a competitive guy. I want to come out here, I want to prove I can help the team and do a real good job. That’s important to me, that’s something I focus on a lot."

Cushing returned to the field Wednesday, coming off the physically unable to perform list and practicing with his teammates for the first time since suffering a torn LCL and broken fibula in a game against the Kansas City Chiefs last season. It was the second year in a row he ended the season on injured reserve after having suffered a major injury. During the 2012 season, Cushing tore his ACL.

"I think when you don’t feel right, you don’t want to push," Cushing said. "Especially when you’ve gone through it before. You know what it feels like when it’s not right. ... You know when you’re ready and when you’re not."

He did individual drills and participated in parts of practice that were just with the Texans today. Cushing sat out the team drills against the visiting Atlanta Falcons. Texans coach Bill O'Brien said Sunday that Cushing probably would not play in Saturday's home preseason opener.

Cushing said he thinks he can have his best season ever this year. It would be a payoff for another difficult offseason.

"When guys leave the building, season’s over, and you’re in there by yourself rehabbing every day, there's not many people around and it's kind of tough," Cushing said. "It’s kind of tough to deal with that, push through. It kind of seems like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. But like I said, the hardest part’s over, so I’m grateful for that."