Brian Cushing says he can play July 17 for Houston Texans

Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing, sidelined with a major knee injury since last October, now has a target date for his return -- and it's in plenty of time for the start of Texans training camp on July 26.

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"I'll be cleared July 17," Cushing said Friday at Reliant Stadium. "I'll fly down to Pensacola and get cleared by Dr. Andrews, who was my surgeon for my knee. As far as camp goes, the first day, I'll be out there; I'll be in pads. As far as how much I'll do in camp, I'm not sure yet, but I know I will definitely be doing a good amount of it, try to get a preseason game in for sure, just knock some of that rust off and be 100 percent come the first game."

Coming off an outstanding 2011 season, Cushing was expected to be the centerpiece of Houston's defense in 2012, especially after the Texans let Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans get away. But he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in a Week 5 game against the New York Jets.

Cushing, the 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, has not participated in the Texans' OTAs and minicamp, but has been working out on the side.

"I've been going crazy, to be honest with you," he said, according to the team's official website. "It's a game I love playing, and when it was taken away from me, a large part of my life was taken away from me. So it was tough to really deal with it and cope with the injury and on top of it, not be able to help the team. Just to come back, my life will be back to normal."

Cushing is in the final year of his rookie contract.

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