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Former Lions cornerback Houston waits for next NFL shot

Shuffling side to side on a bum foot, Chris Houston surveyed his options and fired a pass downfield that was intercepted at the goal line by a high school player.

Houston, the Austin native in search of restored health and NFL employment, laughed off the mishap. Given the tenuous future of his playing career, cracking a smile must have been therapeutic.

Released eight days earlier by the Detroit Lions in part because he couldn’t shake a nagging toe injury, the veteran cornerback was in good spirits last Saturday as he instructed a couple of hundred area youngsters. His camp, co-headlined by former Texas safety Michael Griffin, took place at Houston’s high school alma mater, LBJ.

Houston and Griffin, who competed with each other for headlines as 2003 high school seniors, did not have a relationship growing up at opposite ends of Austin. In fact, they didn’t meet until four years later at a pre-draft visit with the New York Jets.

Griffin, who starred at Bowie, committed to Texas only after Mack Brown’s staff cooled on Houston when his toe started acting up.

“Same surgery I just had,” said Houston, who rebounded at Arkansas.

Funny story until you consider Houston’s release cost him at least $15 million. He called the decision mutual, insisting he and the Lions agreed that Houston is best served by getting healthy before embarking on what would be his eighth NFL season. The second-round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 2007 spent four years with Detroit and last offseason signed a five-year deal worth $25 million.

Houston, who lives here in the offseason, expects to be medically cleared by August or September — too late, perhaps, to make an opening day roster.

“It was something that had to be done, because playing football when you’re constantly hurt is not fun,” he said, describing the operation as a reconstruction of his big left toe. “Health comes first. If I’m able to get back to 100 percent, I know I’ll have another opportunity somewhere.”

Though he made no excuses for his inconsistent 2013, Houston said of his hurt toe, “to be a cornerback, you need that.”

Griffin, a two-time Pro Bowl selection with the Tennessee Titans, is confident his pal will soon rejoin the league and suggested Buffalo, where former Lions coach Jim Schwartz is defensive coordinator, as a possible destination.

“Chris has been playing great football,” he said. “When a new coaching staff comes in and you’ve had injuries and surgeries and the coaches don’t know you well, it’s a business. It’s like the real world. It’s who you know.”

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