Chiefs encouraged by early returns with Justin Houston

Chiefs encouraged by what they've seen from Justin Houston (0:45)

ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher explains how Justin Houston is performing in practice and when he could return to game action. (0:45)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The new guy on the Kansas City Chiefs practice field looked to linebacker Derrick Johnson as if he belonged, as if he hadn’t been off to the side and rehabbing his surgically repaired left knee for the several months.

“Justin looks good," Johnson said of fellow linebacker Justin Houston, who returned to practice this week. “He looks better than I thought he would. I thought he’d be limping just a little bit. But there was no limp to him. Of course he hasn’t banged up against anybody, so that’s still to be seen.

“He’s really strong where he is right now."

Houston has been limited to individual and position drills and some scout-team work. That will continue the rest of the week.

But it’s a start, and according to Johnson and some of his teammates, it’s a good start for Houston. He won’t play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints at Arrowhead Stadium, but the plan is to have him ready to go in time for the Oct. 30 game against the Indianapolis Colts or the following Sunday’s meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Nothing they saw from Houston in that first practice suggests that’s an unreasonable plan. It’s just a matter of when Houston believes he’s ready and the Chiefs are comfortable working him back onto the field.

“I don’t know if a coach can really tell [when Houston is ready]," defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “He’s got to be the guy who says, ‘Hey, I feel good. I’m OK and ready to roll.’

“You see him in practice and you can make a judgment and say, ‘Hey, he’s pretty close.’ If you see he can’t do certain things, if he can’t break or he can’t turn or he can’t change direction, then you’re going to know. Those would be obvious to us and probably to him as well.

“You’ve got to be careful and patient as a coach. As much as we want him back as soon as we can get him back, we want him back [when] he’s close to 100 percent as possible."