Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston was cleared to practice Thursday but has not been given the OK to play in Sunday’s game against Oakland at Arrowhead Stadium.
Houston suffered a head/neck injury in last Sunday’s win at Tennessee and was undergoing NFL protocol for a concussion, even though Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Wednesday that Houston was cleared of any concussion signs. Houston participated in practice on a limited basis Thursday.
If Houston, who is currently second in the NFL in sacks with 8 1/2, can’t go Sunday against the Raiders, fourth-year pro Frank Zombo — who has predominantly been a special-teams player this season — will likely start in his place.
“He’s played in the past in Green Bay … we’re very comfortable with him,” defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said of Zombo. “He has a good knowledge of the defense, he’s a sharp guy, he plays with a high level of intensity. We feel like he can go in there and play, and we are going to be OK in that regard.”
Sutton said Zombo, who has logged five sacks in 30 career games, has some versatility.
“He’s pretty smooth in coverage, and he’s an intense football player,” Sutton said. “He has a lot of energy and I’m sure he would love the opportunity. We’re not doing anything less if he walks out there, I can say it like that.”
Zombo posted a career high in sacks in 2010 with four in 13 games as a rookie, before logging only one in five games in 2011 and none in seven games in 2012.
Zombo, who has two tackles this season, credits new Chiefs general manager John Dorsey for bringing him in from Green Bay.
“I think he realized the talent I had,” Zombo said. “In Green Bay I was injured quite a bit. This is the first time in a long time, at least two years, that I’ve been healthy.”
Zombo did show some pass rush skills in the preseason, when he racked up a sack and five quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus.
“Throughout the preseason I think I did a decent job rushing the passer,” Zombo said. “It’s basically the thing I’ve been doing the last four years of my life. That’s my job and that’s why I’m here, to provide depth. If it’s needed, I feel like I can be that guy.”
If he gets that chance, he can probably expect to be single blocked a lot, due to the disruptive presence of Tamba Hali on the other side.
“You play on the opposite side of Tamba Hali, it’s definitely going to be nice,” Zombo said. “But I was used to that in Green Bay, playing on the opposite side of Clay Matthews.”