Andy Studebaker likely has some flowers and a card or at least some kind of present waiting for Justin Houston when he meets him. Or at the very least, the outside linebacker is mentally thanking the only remaining unsigned draft pick for the Kansas City Chiefs. That’s because the absence and silence of Houston is giving Studebaker a red carpet straight to a starting spot.
Studebaker might have already had the starting OLB position opposite Tamba Hali locked up already, but it doesn’t hurt to have your possible replacement or primary competition sitting at home (or doing whatever — fill in your own blank since Houston and his agent seems okay with that). Every off-season features turnover on every team and OLB was one of the spots where the Chiefs supposedly upgraded from what they currently had on the roster. Changes were coming at receiver and along the offensive line. It was also assumed that Studebaker would be among the incumbents adjusting to new competition.
Yet Houston’s holdout has allowed Studebaker to have the lone spotlight on the outside, a rare gift to seize your moment without everyone else trying to do the same. Sure Cameron Sheffield is there, as is Gabe Miller. But the lack of Houston’s presence in camp isn’t just hurting the Georgia draftee — it’s also a spotlight on Studebaker that gives him several more reps than what he might have gotten.
As for Houston, his silence speaks a thousand words — and none of them are good. Two of the Chiefs draft picks in particular had an uphill climb in terms of public perception to dispel their reputations. Jon Baldwin, the Chiefs first-round receiver, has been here and playing and the media seem content to focus on his big play ability versus anything that happened in his college days. For Houston, however, that’s all we can discuss. That’s because he’s not giving us anything else.
In this training camp season where people have been thirsty for anything NFL-related, the amount of interest and the buzz from each camp is louder than ever. Everything is getting overanalyzed through the lens of the new collective bargaining agreement, and every transaction is receiving an instant thumbs-up or down due to overwhelming fan interest. Simply put, Houston picked the wrong off-season to try to twist a front office arm for some extra money or some perk.
The right move when your draft stock has slipped is to suck it up, put your head down, come in early and leave late while doing the work you’ve been asked to do the entire time. You meet your teammates, you respect your coaches, you learn the playbook and you earn your place on the roster. Instead, there’s a noticeable absence among the Chiefs players.
Everyone is filling the information gap with their own reasons why Houston must be missing. And it’s not the best case scenario. There’s still time to remedy the situation, but the moments are slipping. He needs to be in camp today and begin the work of repairing an image that was already tarnished in the first place.