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Dee Ford: Expect the 2014 version of Justin Houston this season

Ford thinks that Houston is finally fully recovered from his knee injuries.

San Diego Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

I have had my doubts about Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston reaching that game-changing, game-wrecker form that we saw in 2014 ever again.

Houston, 29, nearly set the NFL’s all-time single-season sack record that season, coming just a half-sack short of Michael Strahan’s 22.5 mark. Some could argue Houston has the record right now.

But after knee injuries plagued Houston throughout 2015 and 2016, he has never really looked like the same player. Houston finally seemed fully healthy once again in 2017, when he started a full season and recorded 9.5 sacks.

But fellow linebacker Dee Ford argued this week that we haven’t seen anything yet.

“We really have the potential to be a very good outside linebacking pass-rushing group,” Ford said. “Justin, he’s starting to really go back to that 22-sack guy, so we have an opportunity to be one of the best in the league but we have to take that day by day.”

During OTAs, outside linebackers coach Mike Smith explained that the Chiefs are open to moving their OLBs around this upcoming season, and Houston has bought in.

But Ford explained he believes it’s more than that.

“People don’t understand how bad [Houston’s] injury was and how he also tried to play, and he tried to come back too fast, and he’s not an excuse guy and you got to really respect that,” Ford said.

Houston tried to play in the Chiefs’ 2015 divisional-round loss against the New England Patriots, but he could only manage eight snaps, seeming to re-injure his knee. He never seemed right in 2016, playing in just five regular-season games following offseason knee surgery.

“It’s hard to come back after an injury,” Ford added. “People don’t really understand. You really don’t feel [good]—that’s why I’m excited to be back in full form, so fast because really, sometimes it might take one or two years, even though that guy is coming back and actually playing well. He might not be back to an elite level until like two or three years after the surgery though. I could just see that, and that’s important, man, because knees are a hard deal.”

The Chiefs hope Ford is right.

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