ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- For the second straight year, linebacker Justin Houston joined the Kansas City Chiefs for the start of training camp after missing all of the team's offseason practices because of contract issues.
This year, the matter was settled for the long term when Houston signed his six-year contract worth $101 million.
His absence from the offseason didn't hurt Houston last year. He went on to lead the league in sacks with 22.
Houston arrived in camp in what appears to be excellent physical condition. Houston indicated he worked every bit as hard on his own as he would have had he been training with his teammates.
"I just made sure I was busy at all times," he said. "I knew the guys here were working and I knew the strength coaches would have these guys in shape so I didn't want to show up out of shape. Whenever I got that call, I wanted to make sure I was ready."
With the big contract come big expectations. That will be a first for Houston, who joined the Chiefs as a third-round draft pick in 2011.
Some players don't handle that well. Houston's teammate and friend, linebacker Tamba Hali, said Houston would handle those expectations well.
"Houston embraces that," Hali said. "Some guys don't like the pressure but he embraces that. He knows what he can get accomplished.
"It's not really about his numbers. The focus is really on what we can do as a team."
The Chiefs lost one of their most important pass-rush components recently when nose tackle Dontari Poe had surgery to remove a herniated disk in his back. Poe had six sacks last year and 4.5 in 2013.
But Poe is about more than sacks. His consistent pressure up the middle allows Houston and Hali, the outside rushers, easier access to the quarterback.
"It's a huge loss," Hali said. "He's a sack guy. (Opponents) can't leave him one on one. He's very athletic. He demands two men to block him every play. Losing him right now, we're not too happy about it. I'm not happy about that. He's going to work through it and we're hopeful he'll get him back."