Texans LB Cushing out for season with torn ACL


HOUSTON — Linebacker Brian Cushing is out for the season with a torn left knee ligament, leaving the unbeaten Houston Texans without their top tackler and one of their emotional leaders.

Cushing was hurt in the second quarter of the Texans’ 23-17 win over the New York Jets on a low block by guard Matt Slauson. Cushing walked off the field on his own, but didn’t return.

Coach Gary Kubiak said Tuesday that Cushing has a torn anterior cruciate ligament and will need surgery in two to three weeks, after the swelling subsides. Cushing was leading Houston in tackles (38) before Monday night’s game.

“A big blow for our team,” Kubiak said. “We have to have guys pick it up around him and we’ve got to find a way to move forward. We’re all just disappointed for him. It’s a tough day for him.”

The Texans (5-0) play Green Bay (2-3) in Houston on Sunday night. The loss of Cushing is a foreboding sign for Houston, which ran into a rash of injuries to some of its top players in 2011, including Andre Johnson (hamstring), Matt Schaub (Lisfranc fracture) and outside linebacker Mario Williams (torn chest muscle).

In 2010, Houston lost middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans to a ruptured Achilles tendon, and the team spiraled to a 6-10 record.

“I do know that there are crises in this league, and every team has them,” Kubiak said. “We’ve had our share here the last couple of years, and boy, if this is the first one (this year), it’s a big one.”

Last year, the Texans overcame the injuries, finished 10-6 and won their division, with third-string quarterback T.J. Yates running the offense. Kubiak thinks that experience may help them overcome the loss of Cushing now.

“I do know what this group is made of and I know what they’re capable of,” he said, “and we’ll find a way to work through it and somebody else will come out of this and become a good player for us. I have a lot of confidence in that.”

Tim Dobbins moved into Cushing’s spot in the lineup against the Jets, and finished with four tackles and a pass deflection. Kubiak says Dobbins is “option No. 1” to replace Cushing in the lineup.

Dobbins played his first four NFL seasons with San Diego, including one season under Wade Phillips, now the Texans’ defensive coordinator. He was traded to Miami during the 2010 draft, released after one season and signed by the Texans in August 2011. He played in 15 games last season and four this year, mostly on special teams.

“He’s a veteran player, he’s played with Wade before,” Kubiak said. “It’s a lot to ask, but that’s why he’s here. It’s an opportunity for him as a player and we’ll have to rally around him and like I said, make up for Cush’s loss as a group.”

Another eventual option may be Darryl Sharpton, who was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list during training camp with a hip injury. By league rules, he can’t be activated until Week 7. The Texans have a bye week after playing Baltimore on Oct. 21, and Kubiak said he’ll have a chance to closely evaluate Sharpton then.

“If he was available to come off and help us today, he’s still not ready,” Kubiak said. “But we do have some more time on our hands. We are pushing him toward that date, here in a few weeks, to where we can get a good look at him and see. There’s still some progress to be made.”

No matter who steps in, Cushing will be hard to replace.

Kevin Faulk

retires after 13

years with Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It was tough for Kevin Faulk to leave football. Any hopes he had of staying, though, faded when the New England Patriots’ running game made major strides.

The team’s career leader in all-purpose yards made it official on Tuesday after two injury-plagued seasons. He formally announced his retirement after 13 memorable years in a ceremony at the team’s Hall of Fame attended by owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and several teammates.

“I never thought I’d be saying I’m retiring from football,” Faulk said, “and I never thought I’d have three of these.”

That’s when he took out the Super Bowl championship rings he won with the only team he played for since the Patriots drafted him in 1999 in the second round out of LSU.

He played only two games in 2010 before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He began last season on the physically unable to perform list then was activated and played seven games. But he was inactive for the 21-17 Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants.

And this season, the Patriots’ revived running game has gained the third most yards in the NFL, led by Stevan Ridley’s 490. Faulk exceeded that total in just three of his seasons. Backups Brandon Bolden and Danny Woodhead also have been productive.

Primarily a third-down back on offense, he made his mark on return teams for New England. His 12,349 all-purpose yards, 5,041 return yards and 4,098 kick return yards are team records. He also rushed for 3,607 yards and 16 touchdowns and caught 431 passes for 3,701 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Ryan says ‘no

question’ Sanchez

still Jets starter

NEW YORK — Mark Sanchez is staying put as the New York Jets’ starting quarterback.

Despite struggling again in a 23-17 loss to the Houston Texans, Sanchez is still Rex Ryan’s guy — despite many fans and media suggesting a switch to Tim Tebow could help the Jets (2-3) get back on track.

“Yeah, no question,” the Jets coach said Tuesday without hesitation when asked if Sanchez remains the team’s starter.

Sanchez has completed less than 50 percent of his passes in four straight games, and his 48.4 completion percentage ranks last in the NFL. He also has an unsightly 66.6 quarterback rating, which is 31st in the league — ahead of only Kansas City’s Matt Cassel (66.2) and Cleveland rookie Brandon Weeden (64.5).

Ryan wouldn’t speculate on whether he might pull Sanchez for Tebow if the starter continues to struggle and the Jets’ two-game losing streak increases.

“I’m not going to get into the what-ifs and all that,” Ryan said. “We’re not preparing to lose, that’s for sure. We’re thinking we’re going to win, starting this week.”

New York is home again Sunday against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, who stunned the Green Bay Packers 30-27. Another loss could really ramp up the Tebow Time chatter.

Ryan thought Sanchez “played pretty good” Monday night, especially considering that he was without top receiver Santonio Holmes, out for the season with a foot injury, rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill and tight end Dustin Keller — both out with hamstring injuries. The Jets coach cited three dropped passes and four tips as skewing Sanchez’s final stats: 14 of 31 for 230 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

“I thought he was accurate with the football,” Ryan said.

But, he also had some poorly timed mishaps. With the Jets trailing 14-7 and driving before halftime, Sanchez had a pass tipped by J.J. Watt that went off Jeremy Kerley to Brice McCain, who ran back the interception 86 yards before Kerley caught him at the New York 9. Houston then kicked a field goal to take a 10-point advantage.

Sanchez had a chance to lead the Jets on a potential winning drive with 3 minutes left, but a pass to Jeff Cumberland tipped off the tight end’s hands and right to Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson to end the comeback bid.

Sanchez also missed a shot at a big gain in the second quarter when he found a wide-open Antonio Cromartie, but his throw caused the cornerback, playing a few snaps at wide receiver, to drift as he caught it out of bounds.

Cardinals place

RB Williams on IR

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals announced Tuesday that they are putting running back Ryan Williams on injured reserve with a left shoulder injury, officially ending his season.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt had said Monday that Williams’ injury would put him out for the remainder of the year.

Williams’ injury, the result of a hard hit during Thursday night’s loss at St. Louis, was another blow to an already struggling running game. Arizona was already without Beanie Wells until at least Thanksgiving weekend because of a severe turf toe injury.

The Cardinals rank 31st out of 32 NFL teams in yards rushing per game at 63.4. Only Oakland’s 60.8 is worse.