KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs were on an NFL record pace for sacks midway through last season before losing outside linebacker Justin Houston for the season's final five games with an elbow injury.
The Chiefs didn't get that sack record or even come close. Their pass rush largely disappeared over the final few games of the season.
So it's understating the situation to say it's troubling for the Chiefs that Houston, one of the NFL's premier pass rusher, has yet to show up for voluntary offseason practices. Houston is headed into the final season of the contract he signed as a third-round draft pick in 2011. He is scheduled to make about $1.4 million this year.
That leaves Tamba Hali alone again as the veteran pass-rusher. Hali tried to carry the pass rush burden without Houston last year but was unable to do it alone.
So Hali is eager to see Houston return, the quicker the better.
"As far as I know he will," Hali said. "We're good friends. He's coming."
It may take a new contract to get Houston back to the Chiefs. The Chiefs drafted another pass rushing outside linebacker, Dee Ford, in the first round.
"Whatever [Houston's] situation is, I just pray that everything works out for him and he's back and we get this defense back to where we need it to be," Hali said.
The Chiefs have mostly used veteran backup Frank Zombo in Houston's spot, though Ford received some work there in practice on Wednesday. The Chiefs will need to expedite Ford's timetable if Houston's absence extends into training camp.
"If anybody reminds you of Derrick Thomas, that kid should pretty much remind you of Derrick Thomas with his first step," Hali said. "He gets off the ball so fast it's scary. I just kept rewinding [the video] yesterday just looking at his first step. I don't know if he times it but his first step is incredible."