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Cushing said he’s talked to Texans left tackle Duane Brown, who was suspended for four games on Sept. 21 for also violating the NFL’s banned substance policy. Brown is eligible to return for the Texans’ Nov. 1 game at Indianapolis.

“I just reached out to him and said if he had any questions, let me know,” Cushing said. “I know what he’s going through. I gave him some positive encouragement, told him to keep his head up and time will pass, and he’ll be back on the field again.”

Cushing was Houston’s first-round draft pick in 2009. He had 133 tackles, four sacks and four interceptions last season to win The Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He retained the honor after a revote following his suspension.

He’s motivated now to show skeptics that his performance level hasn’t tailed off.

“I feel like I have something to prove every time I step on the field,” he said. “I’m sure some people will be looking for drop-offs and stuff like that, but nothing like that is going to happen. Come Sunday, I’ll be right back out there again, and I’m looking forward to it.”

The Texans need Cushing to return to form as soon as possible. They rank last in total defense (408 yards per game) and have given up several big pass plays. Houston has also lacked a consistent pass rusher other than defensive end Mario Williams, who has five of the team’s nine sacks.

“Any time you have a Pro Bowl player come back and play for your team, it helps out a lot,” defensive tackle Amobi Okoye said. “We’re looking forward to him getting out on the field and showing us all the things he did last year, and even more. I know he has a lot more in the tank.”