CB Chris Houston's hard work has translated to the football field

Posted Oct 12, 2012

One of the big knocks on Chris Houston when the Lions traded for him in 2010 was that he didn't have very good ball skills. He didn't locate the ball well and didn't play it well when he did locate it.

Houston knew that criticism was out there. So what did he do? He worked at it. He came in on his days off and spent extra time improving his craft.

Today, no one has that criticism of Houston. In fact, he led the Lions last season with five interceptions and has turned into one of the most consistent cornerbacks in the league.

"It was something that he worked on every day at practice and, just like anything else, the more you do it the more second nature it's going to become to you," said Lions safety Erik Coleman, who also played with Houston in Atlanta before they both came to Detroit.

"I think Chris Houston did a great job with that. He's a prime example for anybody who wants to work hard at a skill."

That's good news for rookie cornerback Bill Bentley, who has struggled at times this season turning his head to locate the ball and then making a play on it. Bentley was flagged twice for pass interference when he didn't turn his head to locate the ball in a loss to the Vikings Sept. 30, and did the same thing on a 27-yard completion late in the fourth quarter of that game.

"Young corners, I don't know what they think about," said Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham. "It's like our guy Bill Bentley. He can run as fast as anybody in the NFL and he is on guys. But he needs to learn to finish the technique.

"(Defensive backs coach) Tim Walton, I don't know how long he kept him out here the other night, but they were throwing a lot of deep balls. You know, it's a process."

Bentley doesn't have to look any farther than across the field in Houston's direction to see a player that overcame the same kind of criticism by working at it.

"It's just something I have to get better at," Bentley said Friday. "It just something that doesn't come natural. When I'm (covering) a fade I just have to look back for the ball, it's just that simple.

"But that's what you play the game for, to get better at what you do."

Houston said one of the biggest things that helped him get better at it was facing Lions receiver Calvin Johnson every day in practice.

"All the time in training camp and OTAs they were going to throw the ball deep to him in practice so I learned how to play it well with him," Houston said. "I just practiced on it. I practiced it and believed it and once I did it in practice it was just easier in the game. But it all starts in practice."

Houston said he understands what Bentley is going through because he's been there, but says going through it and experiencing it is part of the process.

"I used to panic when the ball was in the air because I didn't know how to play it," Houston said. "But once I started playing against (Johnson) and saw ways to play it and getting the teaching from coach and then just staying after it and believing that when the ball is in the air it's my ball too."

Houston said he always used to marvel at tight end Tony Gonzalez when the two were in Atlanta when Gonzalez would go out every day before practice and work on this one particular hesitation move. He said he saw how that translated to the game.

"I came here and did the same thing," Houston said. "Off days I come in and have one of the equipment guys go outside and we just do different ball drills with me catching it different ways, seeing the ball."

Houston said if Bentley continues to work on it during practice, after practice and work on it with Johnson, then he'll get better at it just like he did.

"It'll become second nature," he said.