Justin Houston Says Playing In Baltimore Brought Joy Of Football Back To Him

While the Pittsburgh Steelers and their fans are rightfully pleased with what they have gotten so far out of veteran pass rusher Melvin Ingram, so, too, are the Baltimore Ravens and their fans with Justin Houston, and vice versa. Both AFC North rivals had the opportunity to add very experienced Pro Bowlers to insulate their edge-rushing late in the offseason, and neither should feel slighted.

Still, the report that came out that the Steelers pursued Houston first, but that he passed on them (he would later say that he was indeed very close to signing), and instead choosing to sign with the Ravens, didn’t seem to sit too well with some fans.

Like it or not, his joy of being in Baltimore certainly seems genuine. The team posted a candid pre-game conversation between Houston and defensive line coach Anthony Weaver that took place recently in which the two discussed what it’s like to play in Baltimore (Weaver was drafted by the Ravens in 2002 and played his first four years there before signing with the Houston Texans).

“It feels so different over here, man”, he told Weaver. “If you can’t play here, you can’t play nowhere”. The coach then responded that he had an ‘oh no’ reaction as a player when he left. “The grass is greener where you water it”, he said.

Weaver has had a lengthy coaching career beginning in 2010 at the college level. He earned his first NFL job in 2012 with the New York Jets, where he worked under former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. He has also had stops in Buffalo, Cleveland, and then Houston before reuniting with the Ravens in 2021 for the first time since he last played for them in 2005.

“They take care of their people. They care”, Houston said, noting that they emphasize football above all else. “They’ve got a bunch of men, [and] they treat you like men, and just play football”.

Weaver talked about how through every transition in football, from peewee leagues to junior high, high school, college, and then the NFL, you lose a little bit of the natural joy of simply playing the game, as other priorities bubble to the surface.

“Listen, they brought it back to me”, Houston said, of his joy and passion for the game. “Honestly, they brought it back. There was times I was like, ‘man, I don’t know if I want to continue doing this’. They brought it back to me. I ain’t been here long, but…”.

Houston is entering his 11th season, first with the Ravens. He spent his first eight seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs before playing the last two years in Indianapolis. He has made the Pro Bowl four times, and enters the 2021 season with 97.5 career sacks, so, barring injury, he should hit the century mark as a Raven this year.

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