No one was more excited to participate in the Bears' first training camp practice Thursday in Bourbonnais than outside linebacker Lamarr Houston.
The six-year veteran returned to action for the first time since last Oct. 26 when he tore his ACL in a lopsided loss to the New England Patriots.
"It meant a lot, being able to feel the grass and going through drills with teammates and being out there with them," Houston said. "It felt really good."
Fellow outside linebacker Willie Young also practiced for the first time Thursday since rupturing his Achilles' tendon last Dec. 21 in a loss to the Detroit Lions.
With the Bears' Sept. 13 season opener against the Packers still more than six weeks away, Houston and Young are both being eased back into action.
"It's a day-to-day process," Houston said. "Rome wasn't built in a day. If they don't want to take it slow, I'll take it slow with them. But I'm prepared to do whatever it is they need me to do because I'm 100 percent."
Bears coach John Fox intends to employ the same type of approach he utilized last season with the Broncos when cornerback Chris Harris and outside linebacker Von Miller returned from torn ACLs and were voted to the Pro Bowl.
"There are strategies of it," Fox said. "You have to kind of push them along and you do it slowly. If you do the first lap at Lowe's Motor Speedway and have never driven a car before, you're not going to go 180 the first lap.
"You're going to start at 80 and each lap you're going to develop a little confidence, go a little bit faster, understand what a bank turn looks like because you don't do it every day. Most people drive, but they don't know what degree bank turn that is. So push yourself a little harder each time."
After playing defensive end in his first year with the Bears last season, Houston is eager to move back to outside linebacker—the position he played with the Oakland Raiders—in the team's new 3-4 scheme.
The 6-3, 270-pounder is especially excited to play for veteran coordinator Vic Fangio as the Bears defense looks to rebound from a disappointing 2014 season.
"He really gets guys to become students of the game and understand the game and understand what it takes to be a good football team," Houston said. "It's more about your knowledge and your discipline than it is about the talent.
"Last year things weren't the way we wanted them to be, but this year we've got a chance to create our own identity, and I believe we're going to do a great job of doing that this year."