Ready for opener, Mercilus missed ‘critical’ time

Ready for opener, Mercilus missed ‘critical’ time
September 2, 2013, 1:45 pm
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Mercilus ready to go, has high expectations

Whitney Mercilus comes into his second NFL season as a starting outside linebacker for the Texans. But he comes into the Week 1 opener against San Diego after a bunch of missed time.

Mercilus suffered a hamstring strain on July 29 and didn’t return to practice until Friday. The 2012 first-rounder from Illinois is completely healthy now, he said, but he did miss a month of practice and games.

“It’s critical, especially for me being a second year player,” Mercilus said on Monday about the missed time. “During that time, there’s valuable reps, things to look for, things that a lot of offenses throughout the league run and stuff like that. Our offense, they run a lot of looks and things like that, so it helps my recognition and stuff.

“But what happened, happened. There’s no way to change that. It’s just a matter of coming back from that conditioning-wise and being able to mentally lock in this week.”

During that month off, Mercilus worked on the side with trainers. Some days he worked even harder than the members of the team who were practicing. When he first went down on that training camp Monday morning, Mercilus thought it was just a cramp but it ended up being a Grade 1 hamstring strain.

“It’s frustrating because as a competitor, you want to get back out there and you see your teammates taking valuable reps and things like that,” he said. “And during that time, you build the chemistry with your teammates while you’re on the field. And being injured takes away from that. So I just had to wait patiently and it’s my opportunity to get back in that rhythm this week.”

As predominantly a backup player last season – he did start four games because of an injury to Brooks Reed – Mercilus tied the franchise’s rookie sack record with six. Mercilus expects that productivity to continue into his sophomore season.

Mercilus is a starter this year because Connor Barwin left the team in free agency. Mercilus said in his first year as a starter he wants to make big plays and show that he’s worthy of his first-round draft status.

“I’m starting out and I have a great opportunity in my hands,” he said when asked about achieving double-digit sacks. “Definitely, I think I’ll be able to produce double-digit sacks and things like that. I’m pretty confident in myself. It’s just a matter of putting in the work to get there.”