Houston's return will be event to celebrate

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tamba Hali shook hands with the injured Justin Houston to start practice on Wednesday, one of the Kansas City Chiefs' top pass rushers welcoming the other back to work.

The Chiefs did nicely without Houston in last week's win over the Washington Redskins. They had six sacks, one by Houston's replacement, Frank Zombo.

Zombo is a great outside linebacker to bring off the bench but don't mistake Kansas City's sack party against the pitiful Redskins as evidence they can thrive without Houston in the long run. Houston is a key component of the Chiefs' defense, so his return to practice for the first time since dislocating his elbow three weeks ago is a heartening sign for the Chiefs.

Houston's chances of playing on Sunday against the Raiders in Oakland are still iffy. His elbow remained in a brace and he participated only in individual drills in practice on Wednesday.

But Houston didn't appear to be babying the injured elbow. He pushed off on Hali during an individual drill and took a solid hit from Dezman Moses without flinching.

Houston may still be another week away from playing in a game. Even if he's not back until next Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts or even the last regular season game on Dec. 29 against the Chargers in San Diego, that's plenty of time for Houston to be at or close to full strength in time for the games that really matter, the ones in the postseason.