Lamarr Houston spent the first four years of his career with the Oakland Raiders before leaving to become a Bear this spring. One of the reasons behind his signing – besides the $21 million guaranteed over three years on a five-year deal topping out at $35 million – was a change in culture.
He is not, by nature, a vocal type, but has a simple point of view:
“The environment here is different and you can appreciate it around here, because it’s about football,” Houston told CSNChicago.com. “And loving the game. If you don’t do that, get out.”
Houston, who has played at 300 pounds at times in his career, is going into training camp at 275, about what he played at last season. Then he was primarily a right end; now he is the starting left end in standard personnel packages.
Houston is several inches shorter than Corey Wootton, now a Minnesota Viking, but in the same weight class and arguably better suited for holding the point of attack, a priority this offseason after the debacles up front last year.
“We’re putting a premium on toughness and being rugged and being stout,” said coordinator Mel Tucker. “And having tremendous anchor in our d-line and being able to control blockers. That violent shed and get off blocks and make plays and push the pocket in the passing game.
“And then win the one-on-ones. And in order to do that, you have to be tough and you have to be physical. It’s the trenches. And that’s what we’re looking for and that’s what we have with those guys and that’s just the way it’s got to be in the front with those guys.”
Training camp, when pads come on and hitting can happen without risk of violating the collective bargaining agreement, is the time when competitions become meaningful, particularly for linemen. When camp opens in two weeks, however, the mission statement for the defensive line will involve competition, but also will be focused perhaps more on developing something cohesive within a group that had virtually none of it in 2013 and now has a virtually all-new cast of characters.
It is a position group in which three of the four starters and six of the top eight on the depth chart were not even with the Bears this time a year ago. Only nose tackle Stephen Paea and backup Nate Collins were in a Chicago uniforms during training camp ’13. Houston was a Raider, Jared Allen was a Viking, Jeremiah Ratliff was a Cowboy, Willie Young was a Lion, and Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton were getting ready for college seasons. Even backup defensive end David Bass was a Raider through preseason.
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Lines on either side of the ball like time together and its resulting comfort levels. The lack of familiarity on the current Bears defensive line is real but is not a concern.
“It’s different, but the big thing is we’ve got a lot of older guys with experience,” Houston said. “The coaching staff understands what they’re trying to get out of guys. But football is football so that doesn’t change too much.”