Quietly, lost amid the excitement of a new draft class and the optimism that comes as a result was a sad reality for the Detroit Lions last week.
The health of top cornerback Chris Houston is uncertain for training camp after Houston underwent toe surgery. The team hopes Houston will be ready to get back on the field in July, but knows little about his availability moving forward.
“I’m not certain, to be honest with you,” Lions’ coach Jim Caldwell told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press regarding the timetable for Houston to get back on the field. “I kind of leave those things up to our physicians.”
For a team that passed on drafting a cornerback early much to the disappointment of many, that mystery isn’t comforting news. Houston’s 2013 season was more down than up, likely as a result of injuries, both toe and otherwise. For a few seasons though, he has been woefully inconsistent even when healthy.
As bad as the Lions need Houston to be improved in 2014, they also need him to be healthy and on the field. A cornerback tandem of second year man Darius Slay and veteran Rashean Mathis scares nobody, and considering Detroit would turn to Cassius Vaughn, Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood, Jonte Green and untested rookie Nevin Lawson in reserve roles, a lack of quality depth could become glaring again.
Knowing this, Houston’s health is the biggest story line the team will face this summer, and possibly even through training camp into the preseason. Matthew Stafford’s redevelopment will evolve over time, and trivial worries about Ndamukong Suh’s leadership style will fade into the background. Houston might still not be on the field at a key spot, though, leaving things up in the air.
Detroit doesn’t want to face a season of injury-driven uncertainty at the first cornerback position again, meaning Houston’s healing process will be the most important thing for the team and fans to monitor the next few months.
While hot dogs and burgers cook, fireworks fly and trips to the pool again become the norm, Houston will be desperately trying to get well in time for a very important football season, both for him and his team.
As other stories come and go, the ongoing tale of Houston’s injury woes could prove to have the most significance in the warmer months ahead.