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Houston went in, competed


Houston aims for the endzone

The 2006 offseason began inauspiciously for Cedric Houston. Last April, Houston was a passenger in a one-car accident in Tennessee.

"It was raining and we kind of lost control of the vehicle. I got ejected from the vehicle, but I ended up being fine from it," said Houston when he arrived at Weeb Ewbank Hall in the summer.

The second-year Jets running back, a University of Tennessee product, recovered from the scare and actually came back to training camp in very good shape.

"I'm not 230 or in the high 220s like I was last year," he said in July. "I feel a lot lighter, quicker, faster, and my recovery is a lot faster."

Even with the weight loss, Houston said he had actually increased his power.

"I still have my strength. As a matter of fact I probably picked up a little strength in the bench press and in the squat," he said. "So I feel a lot better even though I dropped the weight."

Houston was placed on the inactive list for the first two weeks of the regular season. He was used sparingly against Buffalo in week three, but managed to collect his first rush touchdown of the year. The 6'0", 220-pound Houston then got on track against the Colts, running 12 times for 49 yards. But he was stopped for no gain on a third quarter goal line run and injured his left knee on the play.

"It was frustrating, being my first time getting good action since the Buffalo game last season," Houston said. "To end up getting hurt set me back a little bit, but it will be fine once I get it rehabbed."

"Cedric was doing some positive things. He was doing some positive things prior to this game," coach Eric Mangini said. "The reason he was activated last week and again this week is the way that he's been practicing, and the things that he's been doing in practice to create that opportunity. I thought in his opportunity against Buffalo, he did a nice job. He was doing a pretty good job here yesterday. It is one of those things where injuries do take place, and we'll evaluate where we are."

The Houston injury would become a five-game setback. He didn't return to the lineup until a November home game versus the Bears. After close to a two-month layoff, Houston ran 11 times for 50 yards against one of the league's best defenses.

"I knew when I did get out there, I had to be effective," he said. "There wasn't a sense of urgency, but I knew once I got in there, I had to make some plays."

The Jets punished the Packers at Lambeau Field in December, and Houston warmed on the chilly occasion. He earned Jets' Offensive Player of the Week honor after registering his first 100-yard rush game, totaling 105 yards and also notching a career-high two touchdowns on the ground.

"We know we can run the football and this was one of those types of days where we showed we could run the football a lot," Houston said.

The Jets used a committee approach in the offensive backfield throughout the '06 campaign, highlighting specific personnel in particular offensive packages. Rookie Leon Washington led all the backs in both rushing yards (650) and receptions (25). But Houston, who played in only two of the club's first nine regular season games, was able to finish second on the club in rushing yards (374) and rushing touchdowns (5).

"I could be the number one back depending on the type of team we play, but we just go there and compete," he said. "I go out there and try to not make mistakes."

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